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Who Is Responsible for an Overpayment to a Deceased Person?

Today we will be answering a question that was recently asked anonymously through our interactive disability forum. If you have a question regarding this topic or any other Social Security Disability topic, be sure to leave it in the comment section below or contact us on Facebook or Twitter.

Today’s question is:

Who is responsible for paying back a Social Security Disability overpayment if the original recipient dies?

A Social Security Disability overpayment occurs when the Social Security Administration (SSA) pays a recipient more than the amount that he or she is entitled to. An overpayment can occur for a variety of reasons. However, overpayments most often occur when the recipient fails to report medical, income, or work-related changes. When the SSA becomes aware of an overpayment, they will send a notice to the responsible party.

The party responsible for repaying an overpayment depends on the circumstances in which the overpayment occurred. This can become complicated when the responsible person passes away.

Representative Payee

If you serve as a representative payee for a deceased benefit recipient and are at fault for the overpayment, then you will likely be held responsible for paying back those funds.

Estate

In many instances, the estate of the deceased beneficiary will be responsible for paying back any overpayments. In some cases the SSA may ask the legal representative of the deceased party’s estate to issue payment for the overage. However, any benefits that are due to the estate may also be reduced to cover an overpayment.

Dependents

Survivors or dependents of a deceased SSDI recipient are often entitled to receive benefits under the eligible worker’s record. If this is the case the SSA will attempt to recover payment from

  • the representative payee

or

  • the estate of the deceased beneficiary.

If the SSA does not or cannot receive payment from either of these sources, they may attempt to recover payment by deducting funds from any available auxiliary benefits. This means that the benefit overpayment may be subtracted from the monthly payments of any eligible dependents. This may cause any available survivor benefits to be reduced or even stopped.

Joint SSI Benefits

For couples receiving joint SSI payments, both partners are responsible for any overpayment that may occur. If one spouse dies, the other person will be responsible for repaying any overages and his or her monthly benefit may be reduced accordingly until repayment is complete.

If both spouses pass away or if the SSA cannot recover payment from the remaining spouse, they may attempt to get the money paid back through the estate of one or both of the deceased beneficiaries.

As always, please let us know if you have additional questions in the comment section below and we may answer them in a future blog post!

Comments

My son with Asperger Syndrome was receiving disability benefits, after 2 years of appeals he was determined to have a permanent lifelong disability.
I was both his Court appointed Feduciary Guardian and his Social Security representative Payee. In 2012-13 I was also my 92yo fathers caretaker and live-in hospice care worker. My son earned $13,631 during 2013 which exceeded the $1010/month maximum for 9 of the 12 months, for a total of $1,511 during the year.
In February of 2014 he was notified that his payments were stopped because of his earnings. He lost the ability to pay rent on his apartment 1/4 mile from his job and was forced to move back home with his mother. Subsequently he also lost his job, had to drop out of his part time college classes due to being unable to afford transportation. In February of 2015, one year after the loss of his disability benefits, overwhelmed with debts and responsibilities he committed suicide.
social security had sent him a bill for $13,000+ of "overpayment".
Meanwhile as I am with dad in his last days my wife filed for divorce. During that time I did not get all of my mail including social security notices.
I did not file an appeal within the 60 days required, and as a result I was ordered to repay the full overpayment, now after taking my son's tax refund, of $11,038.
I filed a waiver request which was denied, and have a conference coming up in a couple of days. what are my options?

Hi there,
I am SO sorry to hear about this. What a horrible situation...so sad. I unfortunately have no idea how to help you in this situation. I typically always recommend to pay any overpayments, but this seems like special circumstance. You could try contacting a civil rights attorney and see if he or she can help you waive that payment. I really wish you the best of luck during this trying time.

do you have any information on how I can help my mom? My aunt, my moms sister died suddenly, and my mother inherited her son who is autistic. My mother took him in (10 years old) because his father abandoned him when he was only an infant, and no other family would take him. A year or so ago, my mom received a notice saying that while living, my aunt received an SS overpayment for $86,000, of course my mom had no idea, but was even more outraged because they are trying to stick her with this bill. absolutely unfair that they are trying to punish her for something she has nothing to do with. My mom need help and funds to raise this special needs child and cant get any assistance. They are not only trying to take money from her to pay it, but also are trying to penalize this autistic childs future. What is he going to have to live on when he becomes an adult? totally unfair, please help me with some direction.

Hi there,
It may be a good idea to find out if the letter was not a mistake on the SSA's part. In addition, if your aunt was not receiving retirement, SSI, or SSDI benefits, it may be an indication of identity theft. you can find some more information here:
https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10064.pdf

Hello, I receive disability payments off of my father claim he is now deceased , I was notified that he had an over payment of close to $10,000 being that he is now gone they are saying I have to pay it, it's not fair I had nothing to do with HIS over payment. What can/should I do
HELP PLEASE

Starting in 2003 my husband was receiving Social Security disability due to a work injury. He was receiving workers compensation along with Social Security Disability. After the course of 13 years he passed away. Now I get a letter stating that the social security was in error and paid him too much during those 13 years. They are holding me responsible for the $47,000 overage. I was his representitive payee and legal guardian due to his traumatic brain injury. He died with no estate and I was the executor of his estate filed with the court. There is no money in his estate. Additionally, I went down to social security and they looked up the records. They saw where my annual reporting was correct. They stated they see where the error is and its not my fault. They said either workers comp was reporting that they were giving my husband only one monthly check when in fact they were giving him two, like they were supposed to do, or SSA interpreted it all incorrectly. Every person I went to at SSA saw the error, yet they are now witholding my benefits when my reports were accurate for all of those years. I even had one SSA employee take the letter I received and tore it up in front of me saying "this is not your responsibility. Stop worrying about it." I'm trying to fight this right now but they have withheld my $1,600 a month payment for the next three to four years in order to pay this back. Do I have a fight?

My mother in law received disability payments for a few months before she passed. There was no back pay. It began once the 6 month waiting period lapsed.
Through not fault of her own (paperwork submitted correctly by her), her spouse's income was not input into the system. She received overpayment benefits for her first couple checks until the income was fixed.
An original payment plan was put into place in which a portion was kept out of her subsequent checks.
I am under the impression she only received approximately 4 payments in total.
It has been nearly a year and now someone has contacted her spouse requiring repayment from him.
I don't understand the specifics of "joint" benefits. He did not receive disability. It was solely her.
There is no estate and she did not have any life insurance policies or assets for it to come out of.
Is there any type of exemption for this situation?

Hi Tammy,

I am so sorry to hear that. I would recommend calling the SSA immediately and speaking to a representative. 1-800-772-1213.

-Eric

My father passed away in 2016 , and was receiving S.S. Disability checks before he passed . My brother and were recieving checks because of my fathers disability . My question is now that he's passed away would be still getting checks from him , and how long would we still be receiving them until

Hi Maria,
I'm sorry to hear about that! You both may still be eligible, however it's a good idea to contact the SSA regarding this.

If my husband accrued the debt years before I met him, would I be responsible for the debt after his death. We've been married 8 yrs. and I just found out about the debt a few years ago. The debt is an overpayment from social security of $99,000. He stated that he told them that he started working again, but has no proof.

Hi Carol,
I could not say for sure, you may want to consult your state's laws about debt, marriage, and probate to find out what your obligation may be.

So my brother died owing social security 200 grand.his estate is worth 113,000.00..his sons are opening a probate as my brother had no will..will social security get the whole estate funds? Lawyer told them it dies with the person.i dont believe that...anyone know if we can find out from SSD?

Hi Steve,

You should contact the SSA regarding your unique situation.

SS is trying to collect a so called overpayment from my husband that occurred 15 years before we married. He was married to his ex-wife at the time. Can I be held responsible for the debt after his death. We've been married 2.5 yrs. in the state of PA. Also, will SS look at my annuity account, established years before we married, as funds for payment.

Hi there,
I could not say, you may want to contact the SSA regarding this. You can contact them at 1-800-772-1213.

Hi there,
I could not say, you may want to contact the SSA regarding this. You can contact them at 1-800-772-1213.

Hi my husband just passed on Feb 14 2018 I just received a letter from social security about a overpayment I called them about his death his March check was stopped why would there be a over payment I don't understand he did get Feb check but he was still alive he paid the bills rent etc we have no big money he had no life insurance I have to pay for everything

Hi there,
I could not say, you may want to contact the SSA regarding this. You can contact them at 1-800-772-1213.

Hi, I have a cousin who collected benefits from her father for 13 years, and now she is 25, well a dna test was done, all to find out he wasn't the father. Do she have to pay all the benefits back???

Hi Tricia,

You'd have to contact the SSA to find out this situation. Their number is 1-800-772-1213.

My Grandfather passed away later in February and we reported to the Social Security office and we were told that the funeral home would take care of it. We called Social Security again after discussing it with the funeral, yet we are getting an overpaid fee. Is there anything we can do about it?

Hi AJ,

I am so sorry to hear about that. Have you tried speaking with a representative from the SSA?