Trust Matters  
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A representative payee is a person or entity appointed by Social Security or another government benefit provider to manage the associated benefit payments for someone unable to do so on their own — for example, a minor child, a severely disabled person or a retiree suffering from advanced dementia.

The payee is typically a relative or close friend of the beneficiary needing assistance, but Social Security can also name an organization or institution to the role should those close, personal relationships not exist. Examples of such include nursing homes, social service agencies, or a professional fiduciary. Individuals applying for or receiving benefits may, in advance, designate who they would like to serve as their payee if/when the need arises. 

Included in, but not limited to, the range of duties payees must discharge: 

  • Use the beneficiary’s Social Security or SSI payments to meet his or her essential needs, such as food, shelter, household bills and medical care. The money can also be used for personal needs like clothing and recreation.
  • Retain any remaining money from benefit payments in an interest-bearing bank account or savings bonds for the beneficiary’s future needs. 
  • Keep records of benefit payments received and how the money was spent or saved.
  • Report to Social Security any changes or events that could affect the beneficiary’s payments (for example, an employment opportunity, a move, marriage, divorce, or death).
  • Report any circumstances that affect the payee’s ability to serve in the role. 
  • The representative payee can’t mingle the beneficiary’s Social Security payments with their own money or use them for their own needs. The bank account into which benefits are deposited must be fully owned by the beneficiary, with the payee listed as financial agent.

While this article is written with emphasis on a Social Security recipient’s representative payee, please note that every government benefit agency (Veteran’s Administration [VA], Office of Personnel Management [OPM/Civil Service], and Railroad Retirement Board [RRB]) has its own representative payee program to help their beneficiaries manage their benefits.  Your local government benefit agency office can help answer questions and can provide the additional detailed information regarding their representative payee program.

For information regarding how River Communities Fiduciary Services (RCFS) can help you apply to become someone’s representative payee or how RCFS, as a professional fiduciary, can provide representative payee services, please visit us at www.rcfstrusts.org, or call for an appointment.

Eric O'Connor
About the author: Eric O’Connor, CMP (TM), NCG, is the Executive Vice President of River Communities Fiduciary Services.

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