PR 07230.041 Oregon
A. PR 04-317Disposition of Conserved Funds by Institutional Representative Payee
DATE: August 30, 2004
The State of Oregon has a small estate statute which must be used when determining the proper distribution of a deceased beneficiary's conserved funds by a representative payee in situations where there is no legal representative of the beneficiary's estate.
You have asked what an institutional representative payee should do with conserved funds when the beneficiary dies and the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) is asserting a claim to the funds.
Upon the death of the beneficiary, conserved funds belong to the beneficiary's estate. See Program Operations Manual System (POMS) GN 00603.100B2; NL 00703.204 (notice to representative payee); NL 00703.924 (termination letter to representative payee). The institutional representative payee should turn the funds over to the legal representative of the beneficiary's estate for disposition under state law. Id.; see also SSA's publication on A Guide for Representative Payees. If there is no legal representative of the estate, the institutional representative payee should contact the state probate court for instructions on what to do with the conserved funds. GN 00603.100B2.
Oregon has a small estates statute that provides for a simplified administration of the estate. OR. REV. STAT. § 114.515; POMS GN 02315.075. The estate must have a fair market value of $140,000 or less (not more than $50,000.00 attributable to personal property and not more than $90,000.00 attributable to real property). OR. REV. STAT. § 114.515(2). If the assets of the estate are insufficient to pay all expenses and claims in full, the assets are distributed in priority order. See OR. REV. STAT. § 115.125. DHS' claim for medical assistance paid is ninth in the priority order. OR. REV. STAT. §§ 87.533, 115.125(1)(i).
Oregon law also gives DHS priority to moneys deposited in a deceased depositor's bank account that has $25,000 or less in deposits. OR. REV. STAT. § 708A.430. The surviving spouse has first priority and DHS has second priority to the moneys on deposit. Id. at subsection (1)(b). A probate proceeding is not necessary for DHS to establish its claim to the deposits. Id. at subsection (5). Here, the institutional representative payee maintains a bank account and has a record of the beneficiary's share of conserved funds in that account. The Social Security regulations authorize a representative payee to deposit conserved funds in an interest-yielding bank account in a form that "shows clearly that the representative payee has only a fiduciary and not a personal interest in the funds." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.2045(b) and 416.645(b). It does not appear from the facts you presented that DHS is asserting the claim under OR. REV. STAT. § 708A.430.