Designating who manages your Social Security benefits

Social Security could be a crucial part of your retirement, so it is natural that you should want to keep control over your Social Security payments and benefits. However, older age or an illness may someday make it necessary for you to find help managing your Social Security funds.

A Social Security Advance Designation is a tool that allows you to select one or more individuals who can serve as your representative payee if you ever need help controlling your Social Security benefits in the future.

How does Social Security Advance Designation work?

Through an advance designation, the Social Security Administration permits you to preselect up to three people, in priority order, whom you trust to manage your benefits if you become unable to do so. This is a designation you make in advance before any determination that you need a representative payee.

Social Security allows you to choose only people, not organizations. Once you have picked your candidates, each year Social Security will send you a notification that lets you review your choices. If you wish, you can change one or more designees to someone else.

How can advance designation be useful?

Choosing a future payee gives you control over who will handle your Social Security matters if needed. Without it, Social Security will select a suitable representative payee if they determine you can no longer manage your own benefits. By making an advance designation, you decide ahead of time who you want in that role.

Does this designation equal a power of attorney?

While an advance designation allows you to name potential representative payees, it is not the same as a power of attorney and cannot override one. Your designated individuals have no authority until Social Security determines you require a representative payee and appoints them.

You can withdraw your payee choices at any time if your preferences change. Social Security will honor your most recent designees. The designation ends at your death or if you regain your ability to oversee your benefits directly.

While an advance designation provides a way to have a say in your future, it does not replace other estate planning tools. Elder law addresses a number of legal arrangements that allow a person to hand off broader authority over financial affairs.



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