Legal evidence is required when there is an allegation that the beneficiary is legally
incompetent. There must be a court order in place for finding that an individual is
legally incompetent. If a court establishes that the beneficiary is incompetent, the
beneficiary must receive benefits through a representative payee (payee) and no other
capability development is necessary.
A guardianship or conservatorship could indicate that the beneficiary may be legally
incompetent. Even if there is no direct allegation of legal incompetence, technicians
should ascertain during the interview if the beneficiary has a legal guardian or conservator.
Technicians must exercise good judgment and carefully evaluate the court order of
guardianship or conservatorship, if available, to determine whether or not it establishes
legal incompetency, and whether further development of legal evidence of incompetency
is necessary. For example, if a guardianship or conservatorship is only for administration
of an estate or financial asset, or if a guardianship is for an issue other than legal
incompetency, accept a copy of the court order as lay evidence and continue to develop
for other evidence of capability; otherwise, or if no court order copy was provided,
develop for legal evidence of incompetency.