In the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provided for advance designation. Advance designation allows beneficiaries of and claimants for Social Security benefits (disability or retirement) the option to provide SSA with one or more names of individuals who can serve as their representative payee should they become incapacitated in the future.
In the event that a beneficiary becomes unable to manage his or her benefits or becomes incapable of directing others to manage them on his or her behalf, a representative payee will step in to manage them. Representative payees must be appointed through a formal process, and advance designation is not the same as appointment of payee.
Under advance designation, a beneficiary or claimant may list up to three individuals who can be appointed as representative payees should a need arise in the future. The beneficiary proposing the advance designation must provide their names, telephone numbers, and the order of priority in which he or she wishes them appointed. A beneficiary cannot have multiple representative payees, but should one of them on the list be unavailable or unwilling to take over payee duties, SSA can automatically move down the list to the next person and the one after that, if applicable.
Advance designation is completely voluntary and does not expire, and the beneficiary can add or remove names or change the order of priority at any time. Although advance designation is not a guarantee that the individuals listed will meet SSA’s qualifications and be willing or able to serve as a representative payee, it can provide peace of mind to a beneficiary to know that someone with his or her best interests at heart will be managing the Social Security benefits.
If you are interested in advance designation, you can provide or update information to Social Security online, at your local Social Security field offices, via telephone, or by mailing in Form SSA-4547 (Advance Designation of Representative Payee). Please note that you cannot designate an organization in advance to serve as a future representative payee.
Although you can choose any individual with advance designation, SSA advises that you choose a person who has genuine concern for your well-being; for that reason, SSA prefers family members and friends. Your choices for advance designation should be organized, financially independent, honest, and have no prior felonies. SSA reserves the right to veto any and all of your choices in the event that none of them meet SSA’s requirements and make its own appointment of representative payee.
Should you choose to participate in the advance designation program, you can submit your request at the time you apply for benefits or any time after you’ve already started receiving them. Additionally, SSA will send you a notice each year with your current advance designation information for your review.