TN 3 (09-17)

GN 02301.035 Title II Underpaid Beneficiary is Deceased – Persons Who Can Act as Legal Representative

A. Explanation of “legal representative” for deceased beneficiary’s estate

The term “legal representative,” for the purpose of qualifying to receive an underpayment, generally means the administrator or executor of the deceased beneficiary's estate. An executor is a person named in a will to act as representative of the deceased’s estate. If the deceased died without a will, an administrator may be appointed by a court to act as representative of the estate.

A “legal representative” may also include an individual, institution, or organization acting on behalf of an estate without an executor or administrator, provided they can give us “good acquittance,” as defined in GN 02301.030C.

B. Other persons who can qualify as a legal representative

The following persons may also qualify as legal representatives, provided they can give us “good acquittance,” as defined in GN 02301.030C.

  1. A person who qualifies as a legal representative under a State’s small estate statute. For small estates statutes, see subchapter GN 02315.000.

  2. A person resident in a foreign country who, under the laws and customs of that country, has the right to receive assets of the estate.

  3. A public administrator, or

  4. A person who has the authority, under applicable law, to collect the assets of the estate of the deceased beneficiary.

NOTE: Be aware that some countries require little or no formal action by a person to obtain authorization to receive payments due a deceased individual. For more information on determining whether a resident of a foreign country qualifies as a legal representative, see POMS GN 02301.080 through GN 02301.095.

NOTE: A public administrator is typically a city or county official authorized by State law to collect and distribute a decedent’s property.

If there is a question about whether an individual qualifies as the legal representative, send the case to the regional office (RO). The RO sends the question to the Regional Chief Counsel (RCC) for guidance.

C. Applicable law

In determining whether a person qualifies as a legal representative, we apply the law of the State or foreign country where the deceased individual was residing when they died.

D. Documenting qualifications as a legal representative

1. Evidence required to document qualifications as a legal representative

The evidence required to determine whether a person qualifies as a legal representative depends on how the person seeks to qualify.

  • If the person seeks to qualify as a court-appointed legal representative, they must provide proof of the court appointment as set forth in GN 02301.035D.2. through GN 02301,035D.4. in this section.

  • If a person seeks to qualify under a small estate statute, they must show evidence that they meet the statutory requirements per GN 02315.005.

  • If a person seeks to qualify as a public administrator, they must show proof of their authority to collect the deceased’s assets as a public administrator. A certified copy of a court order showing the court appointed the public administrator to collect the assets may be acceptable proof.

  • If a person seeks to qualify based on some other authority to collect the assets of the deceased's estate, they must show proof of their authority to collect the assets. An affidavit or a certified copy of a court order may be acceptable proof.

2. Evidence of court appointment as a legal representative

Acceptable evidence of court appointment as a legal representative may be:

  • A certified copy of a court order of appointment;

  • A certified copy of a “letter of appointment” (a letter of appointment is a document issued by a court that names a person as legal representative of an estate);

  • A “short certificate” (a short certificate is a legal document issued by a court or register of wills that names a person as legal representative of an estate); or

  • Any official docu