La Crosse, WI asked in Estate Planning and Social Security for Wisconsin

Q: I am in Wisconsin. I receive SSI. I received a check from MetLife after my sister's death. I was a beneficiary. It was

$7900. I have to keep my resources under $2000 for SSI. I want to spend the money on my sister's funeral costs. Can I do that? What do I do with the check?

1 Lawyer Answer
Thomas B. Burton
Thomas B. Burton
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Eau Claire, WI
  • Licensed in Wisconsin

A: Hello, I am sorry to hear about the death of your sister. If your sister's Estate had no other assets, and there are funeral debts outstanding, then in a situation where you were not receiving SSI benefits you could use that money to pay for her funeral. However, normally, her Estate would pay those debts for her from any probate assets that she left behind. If you know who the Personal Representative (also called Executor) of her Estate is you could ask them if the Estate has enough money to pay these debts. As far as your situation, I understand that you are only allowed to keep $2,000 in assets for SSI. Since you already received the check for the money, I believe SSA would consider this an inheritance received already. You could set up a special needs trust, and place the money inside this trust. If it is all done in the same month you received the money, you can remain eligible for SSI. In Wisconsin, we have an excellent non-profit called WisPact that administers such trusts. You would probably want to set up what we call a WisPact Self-Funded Trust and you would need to work with an attorney to set this up. You can read more about how they work here

Otherwise, if you keep the money, I believe you need to report and you would be disqualified from receiving SSI until your countable assets again drop below the allowable level. You also have an obligation to report any inheritance received to the Social Security Administration. If you transfer a resource instead of using the resource to pay for food or shelter, the Social Security Administration can penalize you for this.

I recommend working with a qualified estate planning and special needs attorney in your area who can review all of the information pertinent to this situation and give you your best options moving forward. Best of luck to you.

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