188.8.131.52 Bereavement payment provisions for single pensioners
Act reference: SSAct section 91 Death of recipient (Age), section 146Q Death of recipient (DSP), section 246 Death of recipient (CP), section 513 Death of recipient … (PP)
Policy reference: SS Guide 184.108.40.206 General information about bereavement payments
The final instalment is usually credited to the deceased's account, which can then be accessed by the executor of their estate.
Explanation: The payment to the estate is usually achieved by not seeking recovery of the payment issued immediately after the death. The executor of the deceased's estate can usually access this.
In some cases it may be appropriate to make payment directly to the estate.
Examples: If the:
- death action is processed 'too early' and the last instalment is not paid, or
- deceased's payment is returned.
The final instalment can also be paid directly to the person responsible for finalising the deceased's estate, if:
- it appears there is no next-of-kin
- the pensioner is likely to have died intestate, and
- the identity of that person is known.
Payment can be made immediately, even before the next payday.
Public trustee - pensioner dies intestate
If the instalment after the date of death has not been paid or has been returned, the public trustee should be paid that amount upon request.
Explanation: The public trustee routinely writes to Services Australia about particular pensioners, enquiring whether:
- money is owed to the pensioner by the Commonwealth, OR
- to the Commonwealth by the pensioner.
The bereavement provisions in the SSAct provide that if a payment is made to an appropriate person following the death of a single pensioner, the Commonwealth is not liable to any action, claim or demand for any further payment.
The Commonwealth's responsibility under the SSAct has been fulfilled if a person who has had at least some responsibility for the deceased's estate has received the payment. It does not matter whether this was the public trustee or some other person.
Explanation: This means that once the payment has been made, the Commonwealth is not expected to adjudicate between competing claims about who should have received the payment.
Community group acts as executor
A community as a whole, or family members, may accept responsibility for finalising the deceased's affairs, instead of appointing an executor. They may also arrange the funeral. In this case, the payment should be made to the individual or group responsible for finalising the deceased's affairs.
Example: This occurs in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Notification provisions & possible overpayments
The SS(Admin)Act provides that a determination that a social security pension is payable to a person continues in effect until the end of the day immediately before the day on which the person dies.
The SSAct allows the Secretary, or delegate, to pay an amount that would have been payable to the person who died for a period between 1 and 14 days after the person's death (depending on the date of death and the person's payday).
If a person is required to notify of the death of a person and that person complies with their notification requirement but notifies 14 days after the event outside of the scope of SSAct 91(1), but within 28 days of the event occurring (SS(Admin)Act 72(6)) a debt will arise for this period. This is because the notification provisions do not override the operation of SS(Admin)Act 123(1)(e).
Act reference: SS(Admin)Act section 123(1)(e) Continuing effect of determinations, section 68 Person receiving social security payment or holding concession card, section 72 Provisions relating to notice