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Estate planning is key to protecting your Social Security benefits

Indiana estate planning attorney

Many people depend on Social Security benefits: retirees, people who are disabled, widows and widowers.

Unfortunately, many people overlook Social Security benefits when going through the estate planning process. An experienced estate planning attorney knows it’s critical to protect these benefits if a Social Security recipient ever becomes incapacitated or otherwise cannot make decisions on their own.

Who would be in charge of managing the benefits? In estate planning, a person is typically given a power of attorney designation. Your POA can manage estate plans if you are unable to do so. The POA, however, cannot manage your Social Security benefits. You will need to get in touch with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to designate a representative payee.

How the process works

A recent Forbes article explains how the process works. A 2018 law created the “advance designation of a representative payee” feature. Here are key steps in the process:

  • Contact the Social Security Administration
  • Name up to three people as designees
  • Rank them in order of your priority

Anyone who is receiving Social Security benefits can contact the SSA to name an advance designee. If you are in the process of claiming benefits, you can name your advance designee(s).

What is the representative payee’s job?

Whoever you name (it could also be an institution like a nursing home or social service agency) will have the power to receive money on your behalf. They must use the benefits to pay your needs. The designee must file reports each year to show how the benefits were spent. They will need to keep receipts and records and produce them if requested by Social Security.

What happens if no designee is named?

If you become incapacitated or the SSA decides you need help with money management, the agency will pick a representative payee on your behalf. Your loved ones or friends could apply to be the representative payee. The SSA also might appoint one. Whoever is named generally cannot charge fees without approval from the SSA.

How an estate planning attorney can help

A representative designee for your Social Security benefits is one of the tools in estate planning. You also may need to consider powers of attorney, living wills, and advanced directives, among other tools to build a strong estate plan.

The process can seem overwhelming, but with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney you can make sure cover all the bases.

Hocker & Associates LLC can help you make the choice that best for you and your family. Contact us today. Your lawyers for life.

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