By: Darlynn Morgan, Probate Attorney in Orange County

In continuing our blog series on The Steps to Take After Losing a Loved One, we’re going to discuss Social Security and how to make sure benefits are properly stopped upon death.

A common misconception is that Social Security will automatically be notified once a person passes away.   There is also a misconception that any benefits falsely issued after death can be collected by family members until the funds are officially shut off.

Yes, it’s true that Social Security will eventually find out about your loved one’s passing.   It could take days, weeks or even months before this information is reflected in their internal records.

They will also know whether or not the family has been attempting to collect continued benefits on behalf of the deceased person.   This is considered fraud and may trigger an investigation by the federal government. If this occurs, your family runs the risk of facing prosecution, fines and having to return the money issued after your loved one’s death.

For this reason, it’s always best to be proactive and notify the Social Security Administration immediately following the passing of a loved one.  You can call the Administration at 800.772.1213, or visit their website,

Be prepared to have copies of the death certificate as well as necessary proof that you have permission to discuss your loved one’s estate.

It is also safe to assume that any payments that were set up by direct deposit will either be stopped by the government or frozen by the bank.

As you may have experienced with issues like incorrect tax filings or appeals, making an error that affects a government institution can be time-consuming and full of paperwork. Avoid making these mistakes by contacting an experienced probate attorney in Orange County by calling (949) 260-1400. We are happy to provide you and your family with a free consultation to discuss how we may be of service to you during this difficult time.