Supplemental Security Income (SSI) -- administered by the Social Security Administration -- is not Social Security. SSI is needs-based cash assistance. Neediness criteria evaluates the applicants income and resources. To be eligible for benefits in a month, recipients' resources cannot exceed $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 combined for a married couple as of the first day of the month. However, not all possessions -- such as an inherited home -- always count as resources.
Home Ownership Rules
A recipient’s residence such as the home he owns does not count as a resource for SSI purposes. The recipient must have a home-ownership interest. The home must be the permanent residence -- the recipient cannot have two homes such as one for winter months and one for summer months. Any land the home sits on -- regardless of acreage -- and any other buildings located on the land are also excluded from resources for SSI eligibility purposes. Homes are not just buildings on land -- they can include mobile homes, motor homes or homes on water such as boats or houseboats.
An SSI recipient can have only one home. If she inherits a second home, whichever home is not the principal place of residence is a potential resource that could affect SSI eligibility. To count as a resource, the second home must be saleable – if there are impediments to the sale, such as contested ownership or other property owners, the non-residential home property is excluded from resources. The dollar value of the resource is the amount the owner would receive for the property after all selling costs – its equity value. If the second home has a co-owner who uses it as her only residence and would be homeless if it were sold, the second home is not countable as an SSI resource.
Inheritances as Income
Cash or non-cash inheritances are income for SSI purposes, at the point the recipient has access to it, such as when the estate is settled. The value of a non-cash inheritance is whatever the recipient could receive for it if it were sold. However, an inherited home that the recipient uses for his residence is valued as income at a presumed maximum value the month received, rather than the actual sale value. For 2010 and 2011 the most income chargeable upon inheriting a residence is $244 for an individual and $357 if husband and wife inherit together. Effective the month after the month the residence is inherited, it becomes an excluded resource.
If a recipient inherits a home but already owns one that she can sell for more than the resource limit, benefits stop. However, the recipient can continue to receive benefits despite exceeding the resource limit if she requests conditional benefits. She must sign a written agreement with Social Security to sell the extra home for its fair market value and refund the conditional payments received to the SSA when the property sells. If the proceeds of the sale plus other resources do not exceed the resource limit the month after receipt, benefits continue.
- Social Security: Programs Operations Manual System -- Role of Resources
- Social Security: Programs Operations Manual System -- Home Exclusion
- Social Security: Understanding Supplemental Security Income -- Resources
- Social Security: Programs Operations Manual System -- Non-Home Real Property
- Social Security: Programs Operations Manual System -- Inheritance as Income
- Social Security: Programs Operations Manual System -- Undue Hardship on Sale of a Home
Jane Amar received a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish language and literature from the University of California in Riverside in 1970. After more than 37 years in government service in management and technical positions, she retired and began her writing career. Since 2007 she has written online content in English and Spanish for profit and nonprofit services and individual entrepreneurs.