More of What Happens If …
Q. My Mom and Dad divorced 15 years ago after being married for 31 years. He later remarried and passed away last year. She’s now 78, lives in an assisted living facility, and for the most part, is mentally OK.
Every year, the facility keeps increasing its fees. Because she’s on a fixed income, it’s getting tougher and tougher to pay her bills. I know that his widow is entitled to his Social Security benefits, but isn’t my Mom also entitled to some benefits because of their long marriage? She never talked to Social Security about it.
A. Because your Mom and Dad were married for at least 10 years, she qualifies for the larger of:
- a benefit based on her own work history, OR
- a benefit as a divorced spouse (one-half of your father’s benefit even though he has passed away).
If the benefit based on her work history is larger, she will continue to receive that benefit, adjusted each year for inflation, for the rest of her life.
On the other hand, if the divorced spouse’s benefit is larger, she will begin to receive that amount as soon as it is approved by Social Security.
She will also be entitled to a lump-sum payment for all of the prior months that she was eligible for spouse’s benefits but didn’t collect them. Generally speaking, the amount of the lump sum will be the difference between what Social Security actually paid her based on her own work history and what she should have been paid as a divorced spouse.
Q. My 94-year old mother-in-law lives with us in California. She still has her farm in Ohio and we keep her banking there for residence purposes. Last week we were visiting the farm and decided to shift her bank account to a bank here in California so that we could have Internet access from here. The account representative at the new bank called the feds to have her Social Security direct deposit shifted from her old bank to the new one.
We were told that this could not be done even though my wife has her mother’s power of attorney. My mother-in-law is hard of hearing and is physically restricted to our apartment.
Any suggestions for getting the feds to shift the direct deposit without hassles?
A. Contrary to popular belief, a power of attorney cannot be used for all financial matters related to the person who created it. As just one example, the Social Security Administration does not accept a power of attorney. Instead, to quote their website …
“Social Security’s Representative Payment Program provides financial management for the Social Security and SSI payments of our beneficiaries who are incapable of managing their Social Security or SSI payments. Generally, we look for family or friends to serve in this capacity.”
For more information from Social Security, click on Representative Payee Program. After you and/or your wife has been designated as the Representative Payee, you can have your mother-in-law’s direct deposit shifted to the new bank in California.