Can you inherit your own home and still receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Yes, you can. However, inheritance and SSI problems tend to go hand-in-hand for a reason. And the reason has everything to do with the nature of SSI and how it’s calculated.
How SSI Works
SSI is a program that provides aid in cash to elderly U.S citizens 65 years old and over and both adults and children with disabilities. Qualified aliens may also be eligible for this financial aid program.
The Social Security Administration oversees the program. However, unlike Social Security, SSI is a needs-based cash assistance program. And neediness criteria are used to help evaluate the applicant’s income and resources.
To be eligible for SSI benefits in any given month, recipients' countable resources cannot exceed $2,000 for an individual. For a married couple, SSI resource limits stand at $3,000 as of the first day of the month. However, not all possessions – such as an inherited home – always count as resources.
It’s crucial to understand what countable resources or income is, because SSI calculations consider more than regular income. In this case, SSI calculations include unemployment, wages, and Social Security benefits. Also, gifts from your friends and free food or housing may be considered countable resources.
Because of the issue of countable resources, SSI and property ownership becomes a tricky issue to navigate.
Home Ownership Rules
If you meet the home exclusion requirements, you can continue to receive SSI benefits, even if you inherit a home.
Based on this set of criteria, a recipient’s residence, such as the home one owns, does not count as a resource for SSI purposes. However, to qualify, 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.
Multiple Homes as Resources
An SSI recipient can have only one home, which acts as the primary residence. If one inherits a second home, whichever home is not the principal place of residence is a potential resource that could affect SSI eligibility.
The second home must be saleable to be included as a countable resource. 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 – the equity value. If the second home has a co-owner, who uses it as the only residence and would be homeless if someone sells it, the second home is not countable as an SSI resource.
Inheritances as Income
Cash or non-cash inheritances are income for SSI purposes and could shrink your SSI or make it disappear altogether. But it only counts 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 sells. 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.
Conditional Payments and SSI
The benefits stop if a recipient inherits a home but already owns one that can sell for more than the resource limit. However, the recipient can continue to receive benefits despite exceeding the resource limit if one requests conditional benefits.
In that case, an SSI recipient 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.
It would be wise to understand the home exclusion rules if you have inherited property or foresee yourself inheriting one. Doing so will make it easier to continue getting your SSI benefits after inheritance.
- SSA: Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Overview -- 2021 Edition
- NOLO: Income and Asset Limits for SSI Disability Eligibility
- SSA: § 416.1212. Exclusion of the home
- NOLO: When Your Home Can Be Excluded as an Asset for SSI Disability
- SSA: SI 01130.100 The Home Exclusion
- LegalZoom: SSI and Inheritance
- SSA: SI 01150.200 Conditional Benefits
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.