SSR 70-4: SECTION 204(d)(7). -- UNDERPAYMENT -- PAYMENT TO RESIDUARY LEGATEE OF DECEASED BENEFICIARY'S STATE AS "LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE"
20 CFR 404.503
- Where the grandson of a deceased beneficiary for widow's benefits is the sole residuary legatee of her estate under a final settlement order issued by a Kansas probate court, and the assets of the closed estate were sufficient to meet all bequest and expenses, held, he can give the Social Security Administration good acquittance for an underpayment due the beneficiary and thus qualify as a "legal representative" of the estate within the meaning of section 204 of the Social Security Act.
R, a beneficiary, was due widow's benefits in the amount of $538.60 at the time she died, domiciled in Kansas. Under section 204 of the Social Security Act the amount unpaid became an underpayment. Her estate was administered and closed, and the co-executors were discharged. The attorney representing the estate presented a certified copy of the "Journal Entry of Final Settlement" of the estate signed by a county probate court. It showed that R had made specific bequests to four heirs and left the residuary estate entirely to C, who was her grandson and only surviving relative. The estate was sufficient to meet all bequests and expenses.
Section 204(d)(7) of the Social Security Act as amended, provides that amounts due a deceased beneficiary under the retirement, survivors, and disability programs will be paid to the "legal representative" if the individual's estate where, as in this case, there is no surviving spouse, child, or parent of the decedent. Since the decedent's legal representatives were discharged before the underpayment was paid, advice has been requested in order to determine whether the underpayment may be paid to C, the sole heir of the residuary estate. The answer to this question depends upon whether C can give the Social Security Administration good acquittance and thus qualify for such underpayment as the "legal representative" of R's estate within the meaning of section 204(d)(7) of the Act.
A determination as to who constitutes a "legal representative" for purposes of section 204(d)(7) of the Social Security Act does not depend upon whether the payee falls within the strict definition of a "legal representative" or has substantially all of the general powers of an administrator. It is necessary that by payment of the underpayment the Social Security Administration can obtain good acquittance. It is clear that an individual who was named as a residuary legatee by a Kansas probate court pursuant to Kansas Statutes Annotated 59-2249, following formal Administration of a deceased beneficiary's estate, could give good acquittance and may qualify to receive the underpayment. K.S.A. 59-2249 provides in pertinent part as follows:
- . . . the court shall determine the heirs, devisees, and legatees entitled to the estate and assign the same to them by its decree. The decree shall name he heirs, devisees, and legatees, describe the property, and state the proportion or part thereof to which each is entitled. Said decree shall be binding as to all the estate of the decedent, whether specifically described in the proceedings or no . . . (Emphasis supplied.)
In the present case, the legal representatives of the estate prior to their discharge could have applied for the underpayment. Had they done so, they would have received it and it would have become a part of the decedent's residuary estate and would have passed to C, the residuary legatee. There is no reason to prevent payment to C, the residuary legatee, simply because the legal representatives failed to take timely action. The Administration will receive the same good acquittance by paying the underpayment to the residuary legatee, C, in these circumstances as it would have received had it paid the legal representatives prior to their discharge. It is accordingly held that C qualifies as the "legal representative" of R's estate within the meaning of section 204 of the Act, and may thus be paid the underpayment of $538.60 which was due R at the time of her death.