Social Security withdraws $$? Legal?

My older sister, “J” had a checking account at Suntrust Bank. Her SS check for $1100.00 was direct deposited. The name of my younger sister “N” was also listed on the account; she also banks at Suntrust. “J” died suddenly and unexpectedly on October 31st. The SS check was deposited November 1st and the automatic payments were made for mortgage, utilities, etc. The SS later requested that the funds be returned as she died before November. There was not enough money in the account to do this. Due to “J” being deceased, the account was closed.

Last week, the SS took (or Suntrust gave) $1100.00 out of the savings account of “N”. This account did *not *have “J” listed on it. BTW, the SS was informed of her death on November 2nd.

Can the SS people legally do this? If not, who is libel; the bank? the SS? Is “N” out $1100.00 of HER money? Why did it take 5+ months for the SS to act?

Since this is a personal legal question, I"m moving it from General Questions to IMHO where you can get legal opinions from all.

samclem, MOderator

Since her name is on the account they link all the accounts together. I am quite sure if you read all that fine print they hand you when you open your account it is quite legal.

I had something similar happen several years ago. I had a checking account that my ex wife’s name was still on. She had moved out of the state but I had a bunch of automatic withdrawals set up with that account so I didn’t want to close it and reset up another one.

Long story short, in her new state she had opened a new checking account at the same bank with her new boyfriend, who then bounced a bunch of checks. One day I go in and find my account is frozen and missing $2000! That is when I was told they cross referenced accounts and found an account with her name/SS number on it that gave them the legal right to access those funds.

I eventually got my money back, but it took a couple months. In my case it helped that although it was the same bank, they were separate companies due to being in different states AND I had a good guy at my local branch who bull dogged it for me. Needless to say I quickly closed that account and learned a valuable lesson.

My sister who works at a bank also mentioned this happens a lot when grandparents or parents co-sign on an account for a young college student or high school kid who then bounces a bunch of checks. Since their account is now tied to that account the bank accesses the parents/grandparents account to cover the loss.

So be careful if your name is on an account in the same bank!

Of course it’s legal. And if the amount in N’s savings didn’t satisfy the over-payment, they might also garnish N’s next tax refund.

I’m honestly surprised that SS caught it so quickly.

To me, the question is if she had $1,100 in her savings account, why didn’t she reimburse SS as soon as she understood the mistake?

But, yes, they can do it. There’s no liability here except on the part of “N”.



Mistake? There’s no mistake, just circumstances that I am asking questions about. Why would “N” fork out money when she has no knowledge or experience in matters like this? AND while grieving? sheesh!

Because the original expenditures from the checking account weren’t hers. The way I read it, the account was J’s primary account. The automatic deductions made were to pay J’s bills and were made by J’s estate, not N, so the reimbursement properly needs to come out of that estate, not out of N’s money. As it is, N should be able to make a claim against the estate for that sum before it is divided among whatever heirs have claims.

The problem for N is that she shared the account with J. SSA appropriately get their money back. Now N is going to have to collect her $1,100 from the estate of J. You said there was a mortgage, so I assume that there is a house that J owned. Once that is sold, N should have a claim of $1,100 out of the net proceeds before any further distributions are done from the estate to any heirs, (as Manda Jo said).

I can’t speak to the technical, financial, or legal details of the OP, but I will point out here that the segment I bolded is wholly irrelevant.

The thing that confuses me is that the money issued on November 1 was not for the month of November, but for October for which she would have been alive virtually all month, if she died on the 31. I could understand if she had died on the 15 that they would want HALF of it back. But on the 31? Give me a break. Let us all make sure we die on the 1st of the month, folks.

Wow. I had no idea they could do this. Note to Self: NEVER open a joint account.

And NEVER co-sign on a loan!

I have a joint account with my husband and we’ve been told that in the event of the other’s death to cash out the joint account asap. Because the courts can freeze the assets until the estate goes through probate, and that makes it very difficult to pay everyday bills, such as the mortgage.

I don’t know how valid that is, but that’s what I’ve been told.

Death is a PITA all the way around.

The entire context of the comment was not legal but moral. JohnT accused “N” of impropriety. It is 100% relevant morally. All manners of things are contraindicated when someone is grieving over a loved one, and accusing someone of stealing is definitely one of them.

I don’t think John T accused N of stealing. That’s a reach. He said “a mistake” was made. Don’t overly dramatize the posting.

He seemed to think that “the mistake” was N’s, for failing to provide, out of their own funds, funds to cover J’s bills. It was implied that N had some sort of moral responsibility to cover those bills, and was ducking that responsibility out of greed by not immediately reimbursing SS. I don’t see that N has any responsibility for J’s bills, and certainly not before the estate is settled. That’s why we have a whole branch of law for dealing with this stuff. SS should have had to wait until the estate was settled, like everyone else, and while it may have been legal to go after N’s money, it certainly wasn’t N’s responsibility to provide it.

Doesn’t this depend upon whether J and N also shared a home as well as a checking account?

I saw stories like this happen all the the time when I was in banking; the authority to do it is laid out in the account holder agreement, which hardly anyone ever uses. It’s why I feel that, if you have a joint checking account with someone and the relationship ends, you should immediately move your money to a different bank.

Hardly anyone ever uses should have been hardly anyone ever reads, of course.