What happens to the rest of a person's Social Security money after they die?

13 answers | Last updated: Nov 22, 2016
Victoria69 asked...

If a person is getting Social Security and dies, what happens to the rest of the money they paid in over the years?


Expert Answers

When someone dies who has been receiving Social Security benefits, two different things might happen based on the person's earnings record and Social Security tax payments. The first is that if there is a surviving spouse or a surviving child under age 18, the surviving spouse and any qualifying children become eligible for what are called Social Security survivors benefits. A surviving spouse may be eligible for these benefits as early as age 60. The benefit amount is the same as the deceased spouse's retirement benefits were (though it's reduced if the surviving spouse claims the benefits before reaching full retirement age, which is now 66 for most people). Someone who is eligible for survivors benefits and also retirement or disability benefits based on their own work record may not collect both -- they are entitled to collect whichever benefit is higher.

Survivors age 60 and above who qualify for survivors benefits may collect them for as long as they live. Survivors benefits may also be paid to a surviving spouse at any age who is caring for the deceased worker's child, until that child reaches age 16. As with retirement and dependents benefits, if a surviving spouse collects survivors benefits before he or she has reached full retirement age, the amount of those benefits may be reduced if the surviving spouse has earnings from current work. To find out about these and other eligibility rules, visit the Social Security Administration survivors benefits web pages.

If the person who dies has no surviving spouse or children who qualify for Social Security survivors benefits, the money the deceased person and his or her employers have paid in during the person's working years remains in the Social Security trust fund. It cannot be paid to any survivors or heirs who do not qualify under the Social Security survivors benefits eligibility rules. That is because Social Security taxes do not "belong" to the person who pays them but to the Social Security system as a whole. Social Security taxes go into a general Social Security fund from which people are provided benefits regardless of whether the amount they personally paid into the system is enough to cover the benefits they collect over a lifetime. In other words, some people will pay into the Social Security system for a long time but collect benefits for only a short time (or not at all), while other people collect benefits for a very long time even though they only paid into the Social Security fund for a relatively short time. The only way this can balance out for the society as a whole -- remember, this is called "Social" security -- is if all amounts paid into the fund by way of taxes remain in the fund, to be distributed based on a system that tries to protect as many people as possible.


Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Social Security is essentially the biggest scam facing working families. They take out close to 15% per year of your paycheck for 40 plus years of work. Essential close to 6K a year on average. Mathematically 20% of people die before reaching the retirement age. Many die shortly after. They claim is a form of longevity insurance and it all balances out between those who get sick or those who live longer but in reality - there are many drug addicts and parents of immigrants - (who never paid into the system)that draw down much of the social security fund. Also many of those receiving social security disability are not really disabled but just are sick of working, back pain is often a qualifying condition of disability social security.


A fellow caregiver answered...

My wife and I are both 66 and collect social security benefits. It looks like I will probably die before she does as I have cancer. My benefits are slightly higher than hers. She will have to give up HER benefits to get mine. So the Survivor benefit is really a bunch of crap. Her check will go back into the pot to be shared among the drug addicts someplace or the hundreds of immigrants I see at the social security offices daily, who have never contributed a dime to the program, applying for benefits.


Confusedvery answered...

how is it possible that social security is going broke? from what I read I would guess they'd be growing money like insurance companies?


Lstewart66 answered...

Social security is going broke because of the baby boomers. Tons of them paid into ss and now they are close to retiring age. I just learned that in my AP Government class. I am a senior in high school and my dad passed away. I get his social security benefits and it seriously helps me. I'm also student council president, in the band, color guard, Big Brother Big Sister, and many other organizations. I wouldn't be able to do all this if it weren't for social security. I have the luxury of not having to work during high school. All my friends think that it's lame, but my father worked his ass off. His death was unfortunate, but it really helps me a lot. I can do everything I like without having to stress about gas money and stuff. Plus my car just got repaired and it cost $1600. So everyone might feel like it's a load of crap, but if you work hard it will pay off in the end.


Jr15 answered...

I am a caregiver. My last client died on May 5th, SSA sent a letter to her children notifying them that her April payment (to be received in May) was owed to her children, $1,211 ... after filing the necessary paperwork it was approved on May 15th. It is now July 16th, and tgey still haven't received their mother's final payment. First they were told it would be 30 days, later they were told 45 days .... now it is over 60 days and still nothing. It took Social Security 1 day to lock out her money, and yet they haven't paid it back in 2 months. And there is nothing that can be done ... they will pay it when they feel like it, if at all. This is just criminal.


Supersnapp answered...

Social security is not "going broke." That is stated by those that want to end social security, so they misrepresent the program. Social security is fully funded for decades from now, after which a few adjustments would be necessary -- possibly, based upon projections. CEPR.net has all the data on this.


Teresam answered...

If your parents dies and you are grown is you intitled to there Social Security benefits if not what happens to there money that they payed for years while working?


Sjminer answered...

You a. If you are disabled or on Social Securityre screwed, you won't get the death benefit 0f 255..00. If you are disabled on old age pension you aren't worth a damn. My brother made over 1,000,000.00 before being severely injured. He gets a whopping 2100.00 bucks Thanks Obama and the loust rip off of Obama care


A fellow caregiver answered...

hi, my boyfriend has ssi and ssd benefits was wonder his father give him a will as $$ but will it hurts his ssi or ssd, because his father never have a ss benefits in all his life until he passed away last August and make a will to give my boyfriend was wonder will it hurts my boyfriend's ssi or ssd?


Tinytoes answered...

My mother passed in april and i applied for her last ss they kept. And since then all i do is get the run around. They kept saying lost paper work, so i sent it certified , now the process time has gone fron 4-6 weeks to 60 days. They wont release it dont waste your time, and theres no way to file a complaint with anyone.


Tinytoes answered...

Oh yes I forgot its now the end of october.


Olympia stokes answered...

Bet you'd miss your SS check if you didn't get one. And SS money going to 'drug addicts' ??? Most drug addicts stay as far away from government agencies as humanly possible. Nor do they have the attention span or follow-through to deal with the incredible amount o paperwork, interviews and phone calls required to qualify for SSI. They definitely wouldn't be handing the money they need for drugs to the lawyer so many end up requiring to prove their eligibility. The person above who pointed to Baby Boomers as the cause is absolutely correct. There are more people retiring or about to retire than are currently paying in. As you probably know, the current recipients of SS aren't being paid by some magic bank where all the dollars they paid into SS when they were working were carefully tucked away until they retired. Nope! It's the younger generations contributing today that are paying for the workers of yesteryears. Thank you to me and my under-retirement-age friends. You're welcome. Sorry it isn't more - I am sure you deserve it and worked very hard for it. Perhaps if we all work together to pass laws that encourage/reward Americans for contributing, like oh, letting them keep living on this great land where some of the lowest tax rates in wealthy countries continue to erode our crumbling infrastructure, the appaling overwhelmed and small amount of mental and physical health care available to our deserving veterans, and an incredibly underfunded public education system, combined with nothing but breaks, breaks and more breaks for the wealthiest class and greedy corporations and their overpaid executives who help themselves to WE THE PEOPLE'S diminishing resources, while being held completely unaccountable for the havoc they wreck on them, their workers, your health and all the generations from retirees to the tiniest of babies...we NEED a federally-supported and managed pension system and guess what, if you don't like paying for it, good luck finding a country to live in where their citizens aren't paying MORE and are statistically happier and healthier. I can't believe people want to demolish one of the best federal programs created and provided to all eligible Americans regardless of what you spend it on or how much you whine about having to pay something to enjoy the privilege of being American. Nothing worth having is free, nor can it be in such a complex population of citizens. PS: Social Security may very well be removed in the next few years and this would be catastrophic for the elderly whether they are middle class or poverty-level. Slightly off-topic but I do find it interesting that there's plenty of well-documented data that the same people voting down federally-managed and mandated programs like Social Security are the very people who want to end the 'murder' of all 'unborn' children. Who do you think would be providing the overwhelming majority of the shelter, food, education and guidance to the children of women who can no longer choose to end an unwanted pregnancy? You? Not according to research and long-term studies on unwanted children. Nope! It's the same folks who want to see our federal government continue to provide affordable healthcare, free K-12 public schools, unemployment and retirement benefits to all of us. Be grateful: you won the lottery if you were born in this country. Your ancestors came here for so very many important reasons, including your right to be ungenerous and complaining. God Bless America; may she continue to be a land of opportunity and generosity for each of us.