April 20, 2020

Edited 04/20/20

Advanced Designations for Social Security Benefits: Choose a Representative Payee

You may want to designate a representative payee to help manage your benefits when you’re no longer able to.

As part of your retirement plan, you should include assistance if you’re no longer able to take care of yourself, financially or physically. This includes if you need assistance with financial and health-related decisions. You may have put together essential documents such as a will or powers of attorney. However, an important part of your plan that you may not have considered is the management of your Social Security benefits. Social Security’s Advanced Designation program allows you to choose a representative payee in the event that you are unable to manage your benefit. 

Moreover, if you’re helping your parents plan their retirement, you should advise them to add an advance designation to their benefits. If you plan to take care of your parents, you can manage their benefits to cover their care and expenses. 

What is a Representative Payee?

The representative payee is responsible for managing the benefits covering both essential and non-essential spending. This includes food, housing, medical care, clothing, and recreation for the Social Security recipient. SSA requires payees to maintain records of how the monthly benefit was spent. They also record any changes that have occurred that would affect the benefit payment such as marriage, divorce or death. Representative payees cannot comingle a person’s Social Security benefit with their own finances. They must maintain a separate bank account for the Social Security recipient.

Who Can Become a Representative Payee?

The Social Security agency will typically approve a family member or close friend. However, a recipient can also name an organization or institution in the role for SSA to approve. This includes long-term care facilities or social service agencies. If you’re applying to be a representative payee, a face-to-face interview with the Social Security Administration is typically required.

How to Add an Advanced Designation

The Strengthening Protection Act was enacted in 2018. The law allows you to provide a list of your selected representative payee to the Social Security Administration. This is available to anyone applying or receiving benefits.

Advanced Designation allows you to identify up to three people in priority order to serve as your potential representative payee. To add an Advanced Designation, you can file an application on SSA.gov or by calling the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213.

Your Advanced Designation can be changed at any time assuming you are still capable of making your own financial decisions. 

As part of your end-of-life planning, consider adding an Advanced Designation to your Social Security profile. This can help give you peace of mind that you will be well cared for and protected in the event you are unable to care for yourself.