20 CFR 404.503
G, a retirement insurance beneficiary under title II of the Social Security Act, died domiciled in Texas. Social Security benefits were due him at the time of his death. Pursuant to section 204 of the Act, the amount unpaid became an underpayment. He was not survived by a widow, children, or parents. His estate was not formally administered. A request for payment of the underpayment as the "legal representative" of G's estate pursuant to section 204(d)(7) of the Act was filed by L, a sister of the decedent living in Arizona. She submitted an order of an Arizona court, issued pursuant to the Arizona "small estate" statute (section 14-501), Arizona Revised Statutes), which purported to authorize her to receive the underpayment of social security benefits.
Section 204(d) of the Social Security Act provides that amounts due a deceased beneficiary under the retirement, survivors, and disability insurance programs will be paid to individuals according to the following order of priority: The deceased beneficiary's (1) spouse either living in the same household at the time of his death, or entitled to a monthly benefit on the same earnings record as the deceased for the month of his death; (2) child or children entitled to a monthly benefit on the same earnings record as the deceased for the month of his death; (3) parent or parents entitled to a monthly benefit on the same earnings record as the deceased for the month of his death; (4) spouse not falling within the provisions of (1) above; (5) child or children not falling within the provisions of (2) above; or (6) parent or parents not falling within the provisions of (3) above. If no person exists who meets the requirements of (1) - (6) above, payment will be made to the "legal representative" of the estate of the deceased beneficiary.
Thus, at issue here is whether L, the sister of the decedent qualifies as the "legal representative" of the decedent's estate within the meaning of section 204(d)(7) of the Social Security Act. It has been held that for purposes of administration of a decedent's estate, the "situs" of a claim by his estate against the United States will be the State of his last domicile. In re Noyes' Estate 182 Oreg. 1, 195 P.2d 555 (1947); also, Wyman v. United States ex rel. Halstead, 109 U.S. 654, 3 S.Ct. 417 (1884); King v. United States, 27 Ct.Cl. 529 (1892); In re Coit's Estate, 3 App. D.C. 246 (1894). It is also a general principle of law that the legal requirements of the State of an individual's domicile at the time of his death control the administration of his estate therein, 33 C.J.S. Executors and Administrators, 18; 3 Beale, The Conflict of Laws, section 467.1 (1935). Under these rules it is proper for the Social Security Administration to pay monies owing a decedent to the individual who, under the law of the State of the decedent's domicile, has authority to collect the assets of the decedent's estate. Such payment would legally discharge the Government's liability for payment. Wyman v. United States ex rel. Halstead, supra; In re Coit's Estate, supra.
In this case, claimant's authority to collect the assets of the decedent's estate was not under the law of Texas, where the beneficiary died domiciled, but under the law of Arizona. Under these circumstances, payment to her of the underpayment would give the Administration good acquittance.
Accordingly, it is held, L does not qualify as the "legal representative" of G's estate within the meaning of section 204(d)(7) of the Act and thus may not be paid the underpayment which arose as a result of G's death.
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