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Selecting a Payee for Beneficiaries Age 18 or Over

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at ssa.gov.

1610. Selecting a Payee for Beneficiaries Age 18 or Over

1610.1 What is the usual order of preference in selecting a payee for a beneficiary age 18 or over?

The usual order of preference in selecting a payee for a beneficiary age 18 or over is as follows:

  1. A legal guardian, spouse, or other relative who has custody of the beneficiary, or who shows a strong concern for the personal welfare of the beneficiary;

  2. A friend who has custody of the beneficiary and shows strong concern for the personal welfare of the beneficiary;

  3. Any one of the following:

    1. A public or nonprofit agency or institution;

    2. Federal institution; or

    3. A statutory guardian or voluntary conservator.

  4. A private institution operated for profit and licensed under State law that has custody of the beneficiary;

  5. People other than the above who can carry out the responsibilities of a payee and who are able and willing to serve, without reimbursement for services, as a payee for a beneficiary; e.g., members of community groups or organizations who volunteer to serve as a payee for a beneficiary; and

  6. A friend without custody but who demonstrates a strong concern for the personal welfare of the beneficiary.

1610.2 What is the usual order of preference in selecting a payee for an incapable beneficiary age 18 or over who has a substance abuse condition?

The usual order of preference in selecting a payee for a disabled beneficiary who has a substance abuse condition is as follows:

  1. A community-based nonprofit social service agency, bonded and licensed (provided licensing is available in that State);

  2. A Federal, State, or local government agency whose mission is to carry out income maintenance, social service, or health care-related activities;

  3. A State or local government agency with fiduciary responsibilities; and

  4. A designee of an agency (other than of a Federal agency) referred to above, if appropriate.

1610.3 Can a family member be selected?

We may select a family member as payee if the family member demonstrates strong concern and is able and willing to exercise adequate supervision of the beneficiary's behavior.

1610.4 Who is selected if the preferred payees are not available?

If none of the above preferred payees are available, a payee is selected from alternate sources in the following order of preference:

  1. A legal guardian who has custody or who demonstrates strong concern for the personal welfare of the beneficiary;

  2. A relative or friend who has custody of the beneficiary and who demonstrates strong concern for the welfare of the beneficiary;

  3. A public or nonprofit agency or institution having custody of the beneficiary;

  4. A private institution, operated for profit and licensed under State law, that has custody of the beneficiary;

  5. People other than the above who are qualified to carry out the responsibilities of a payee for a beneficiary; e.g., members of community groups or organizations who volunteer to serve as payee for a beneficiary; or

  6. A friend who shows strong concern for the personal welfare of the beneficiary.

Last Revised: Aug. 2, 2007


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Not affiliated with the US Social Security Administration