The death of a loved one or close friend is a traumatic experience. In addition to the emotional anguish, those who are charged with dealing with the decedent’s personal and financial affairs following death are often left with many more questions than answers regarding their duties and responsibilities. Below are answers to some common questions most personal representatives have about what to do following the death of a loved one.
Q: How Do I Contact the Social Security Administration?
A: Contact Social Security toll-free at 800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or visit Social Security on the Internet at http://www.ssa.gov.
Q: How to Report a Death to Social Security Administration?
A: You cannot report a death or apply for survivors’ benefits online.
If you need to report a death, contact your local Social Security office or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak to a Social Security representative between 7 AM and 7 PM Monday through Friday. Make sure you have the decedent’s social security number.
In most cases, the funeral home will report the person’s death to Social Security. If you want them to do that, you will need to give the deceased’s Social Security Number to the funeral director so they can make the report.
Q: How to Report a Death to Social Security Administration?
A: By contacting the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visiting your local Social Security Administration office.
Q: Should Social Security Payments be Returned to the Social Security Administration?
A: Social Security benefits are paid in arrears. This means that the check received each month is in payment of the preceding month’s benefits. Thus a check received in January is for December benefits.
You must also understand that for a person to be entitled to receive benefits he or she must be living for the entire month. For example if a beneficiary died on Dec. 20, he or she would not be entitled to the check received in January (December benefits).
If the beneficiary was being paid benefits via direct deposit, the financial institution receiving those funds should be notified. Benefits received for the month in which the death occurred and any subsequent months that may occur are not yours to keep or spend. Social Security will make arrangements to reclaim those deposits.
Some beneficiaries still prefer receiving their benefits in check form rather than via direct deposit. If this is the situation you have, you should not cash any checks received for the month in which death occurred or subsequent months. These checks must be returned to Social Security as promptly as possible.
If returning the checks by mail, send them by certified mail return receipt. If you return them in person to the local Social Security office make sure you obtain a receipt. Make sure you keep these receipts so that if at a future date there is a question you will have proof of returning those checks.
Q: Who is Entitled to Social Security Survivor Benefits?
A: Survivors of the deceased beneficiary may be entitled to a one-time only death benefit. Generally the one-time death benefit payment of $255 is payable to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the beneficiary at the time the death occurred or if living apart was receiving payments based on the beneficiary’s Social Security account.
If there is no surviving spouse the one-time death benefit will be paid to a child who was eligible for benefits on the beneficiary’s account during the month in which the death occurred.
There may be family members who are eligible for survivor’s benefits. Those who may qualify are widows, widowers, dependent children and dependent parents. If you feel you are entitled to survivor benefits contact Social Security as soon as possible.
If you are divorced, you are not entitled to the one-time $255 death benefit. However, if you are collecting benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings, those benefits may be subject to change from ex-spousal benefits to full benefits upon his or her death.
Q: How do I report a Death for a Recipient of Medical Assistance Benefits?
A: When a recipient dies, the personal representative of the deceased recipient’s estate shall give notice to the department requesting a statement of claim, which is an accounting of all Medical Assistance payments made for the decedent for nursing home services, home and community based services and related hospital and prescription drug services. The notice shall be sent by certified mail return receipt or fax, with the deceased’s name, deceased’s last known address, deceased’s Social Security number, deceased’s date of birth, deceased’s date of death, and written documentation of the gross value of the deceased’s estate to:
Division of Third Party Liability
Department of Human Services
Estate Recovery Program
P.O. Box 8486
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8486
Fax # (717) 772-6553
Please be sure to include the personal representative’s name, address, and telephone number in the letter so the Medical Assistance Estate Recovery staff can respond.
Within 45 days of receipt of an accurate and complete notice, the Department of Human Services must send to the personal representative of the estate, a statement of claim listing the amount of Medical Assistance paid. If the personal representative of the estate has questions about the amount owed or disagrees with it, he or she should contact the Medical Assistance Estate Recovery Program by telephone or letter. The Medical Assistance Estate Recovery Program will address any issues regarding the claim with the personal representative of the estate.
Q: What Property of a Decedent is Subject to Estate Recovery for Medical Assistance Benefits?
A: Any property or assets that are part of the deceased’s estate are subject to Medical Assistance Estate Recovery. An estate includes property or assets owned entirely or in part by the deceased. Medical Assistance Estate Recovery only recovers estate property or assets.
Q: What happens if the spouse or a dependent child is still living after the Medical Assistance recipient dies?
A: If the spouse is still living and the property passes to the surviving spouse outside of the estate, there is no recovery by the Department of Human Services. If there is a dependent child who is under age 21, recovery will be postponed until the child reaches age 21. For an adult child who is blind or totally and permanently disabled, recovery will be postponed until the adult child dies.
Q: How do I report a Death to the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS)?
A: If you are a family member or responsible for the estate of a person receiving a monthly benefit payment from PSERS and wish to report the death of a retiree or survivor annuitant, please call them at 1.888.773.7748, or by email at ContactPSERS@pa.gov Information regarding the retirement option selected or remaining value of the account will not be released by phone or email.
A copy of the death certificate, along with a letter stating your contact information, should be mailed to:
5 N 5th Street
Harrisburg PA 17101-1905
After PSERS receives this information, additional forms and/or information pertaining to the account will be sent to you and/or any named beneficiaries.