SSR 68-31: SECTIONS 204(a) and 204(d). -- UNDERPAYMENT -- GOOD ACQUITTANCE FOR PAYMENT TO CANADIAN ADMINISTRATOR OF INDIAN ESTATES AS LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE

20 CFR 404.503(e)

SSR 68-31

Where Canadian Indian worker entitled to benefits dies in Canada and at his death there is due him an underpayment of benefits for several months for which the Administrator of Estates, Indian Affairs Branch of the (Canadian) Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, applies as "legal representative" of decedent's estate, held, since such official has authority to give the Social Security Administration "good acquittance" for a payment to him of the underpayment he may be considered as "legal representative" of the deceased beneficiary's estate for the purpose of receiving the underpayment.

D, a Canadian Indian worker, died intestate in Canada January 4, 1968, leaving an underpayment of social security benefits due him of $179.80. D left no widow, children, or parents surviving. The Administrator of Estates, of the Indian Affairs Branch of the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development had applied for the Underpayment as legal representative of D in accordance with section 204(d)(7) of the Social Security Act as amended by the Social Security Amendments of 1967. He appended to his request a copy of his delegation of authority from the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development of Canada to act as Administrator of Estates and to supervise administration of all Indian estates. This delegation is based upon ยงยง 42-43 of the Indian Act contained in Chapter 149 of the Revised Statutes of Canada (1952).

Effective January 2, 1968, section 204(a) of the Social Security Act provides in pertinent part that proper adjustment will be made when less than the correct amount of payment has been made to any person under title II of the Act, as follows: payment of the amount due will be made to the underpaid person or, if he dies before any payment due him under this title is completed, payment of the amount due, including the amount of any unnegotiated checks, will be made to persons according to the following order of priority as set out in subsection (d); (1) spouse either living in the same household with the deceased individual at the time of his death, or entitled to a benefit on the same earnings record for the month of his death, (2) child or children entitled to benefits for the month of death on the same earnings record, (3) parent or parents entitled to benefits on the same earnings record for the month of death, (4) spouse who was neither entitled to benefits on the same earnings record nor living with the deceased individual, (5) child or children not entitled to benefits on the same earnings record, (6) parent or parents not entitled to benefits on the same earnings record. If there is no person who meets the requirements of (1) through (6), or if each person who meets such requirements dies before the payment due him under this title is completed, then payment will be made to the legal representative of the estate of the deceased individual.

The question to be resolved is therefore whether the Administrator of Estates can qualify as "legal representative" of D's estate within the meaning of section 204(d)(7) of the Social Security Act, as amended. Qualification as legal representative depends on whether or not the party can give the Administration good acquittance. One who has the power to collect the decedent's estate can generally give the Administration good acquittance.

The Indian Act cited above provides in pertinent part:

DESCENT OF PROPERTY

"42. Unless other wise provided in this Act, all jurisdiction and authority in relation to matters and causes testamentary, with respect to deceased Indians, is vested exclusively in the Minister, and shall be exercised subject to and in accordance with regulations of the Governor in Council, 1951, c.29, s. 42.
"43. Without restricting the generality of section 42, the Minister may
(a) appoint executors of wills and administrators of estates of deceased Indians, remove them and appoint others in their stead,
(b) authorize executors to carry out the terms of the wills of deceased Indians,
(c) authorize administrators to administer the property of Indians who die intestate,
(d) carry out the terms of wills of deceased Indians and administer the property of Indians who die intestate, and
(e) make or give any order, direction or finding that in his opinion it is necessary or desirable to make or give with respect to any matter referred to in section 42 1951, c. 29, s. 43."

The quoted Canadian statute clearly grants to the (Canadian) Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development the power to appoint executors of the wills and administrators of the estates of deceased Indians, offices which carry with them the authority to collect the debts due a decedent's estate. Moreover, the delegation of authority to the Administrator of Estates to act in these capacities appears in accordance with Indian Estates Regulations which were cited in that delegation.

Accordingly, it is held that the Administrator of Estates may qualify as "legal representative" of D's estate within the meaning of section 204(d) of the Social Security Act, and thus, may be paid the underpayment of $179.80 due the worker at the time of his death.


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