TN 5 (11-18)

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. For SSA purposes, whether a will is involved or not, a person seeking to be an executor or administrator must provide proof of court appointment as set forth in GN 02301.035D.2. through GN 02301.035D.4. in this section.

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. 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. 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. 3. 

    A public administrator, or

  4. 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 document issued by the clerk or other proper official of the appointing court. The document must clearly list the representative of the estate.

3. Certification of court appointment as a legal representative

A proper court officer must certify documents submitted by a claimant as evidence of court appointment as a legal representative. If the certification is more than 1 year old, the document must show that the appointment is still in effect. Copies of certified documents are acceptable only if a proper court officer made them.

4. Requirements for application and support documents

Application and support documents must contain:

  • The legal representative's full title;

  • A properly certified copy of the document needed to place the estate within their control; and

  • Any other necessary evidence of their authority as a legal representative.

5. Documents retention

We retain all certifications of appointments (certified photocopies are acceptable) in the deceased beneficiary’s electronic file.

Fax the documents into the non-disability repository for evidentiary documents (NDRed) per GN 00301.310.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0202301035
GN 02301.035 - Title II Underpaid Beneficiary is Deceased – Persons Who Can Act as Legal Representative - 11/01/2018
Batch run: 11/01/2018
Rev:11/01/2018