Nothing at all. It’s safe! (But there are some hoops you may have to jump through).
Your social security benefits are protected under 42 U.S. Code § 407 which states that:
(a) In general
The right of any person to any future payment under this subchapter shall not be transferable or assignable, at law or in equity, and none of the moneys paid or payable or rights existing under this subchapter shall be subject to execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process, or to the operation of any bankruptcy or insolvency law.
(b) Amendment of section
No other provision of law, enacted before, on, or after April 20, 1983, may be construed to limit, supersede, or otherwise modify the provisions of this section except to the extent that it does so by express reference to this section.
I have known this for my entire career, but recently put it to the test filing a bankruptcy case for a client who had just received $38,000 in a lump sum award. I warned her to open a new bank account and put that $38k in the account with NO OTHER MONEY. I did not want a bk trustee arguing that we had somehow changed the exempt (protected) nature of the funds by commingling them with non-exempt monies. I then listed the bank account and exempted it (listed the code section above to protect it).
We went to our 341 Meeting of Creditors, and the trustee looked at our bank statement and raised his voice, saying “Counsel. Why is there $38,000 in this bank account?”
I handed him her “Social Security Administration Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance Notice of Award” letter. He glanced at it, looked at the bank statement, and said (on the record), that those monies were exempt and he was considering this a “No Asset” case.
That was it. I worried for a month about it, and all he did was glance at the letter and send us off with his blessing.