SSR 68-72: SECTION 204(d)(7). -- UNDERPAYMENT -- PAYMENT TO DISTRIBUTEE OF DECEDENTS ESTATE AS LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE
- Where the only heir and distributee of the estate of a deceased social security beneficiary was empowered under California probate law to receive ". . . the residue of cash, and all other property belonging to said estate, whether described . . . or not . . ." in the decree of distribution, held, a social security underpayment due the decedent is "property belonging to said estate" under the terms of the decree of distribution. Held further, that the distributee of the estate can give the Administration good acquittance for the underpayment and thus qualify as a legal representative of the estate within the meaning of section 204 of the Social Security Act.
D, a deceased wage earner, was due an underpayment of benefits in the amount of $2,307 at the time of his death. The superior Court of the State of California issued an order entitled "Order Settling Final Account and For Distribution" in the matter of D's estate, declaring that H, sister of the decedent, was his only heir and that all of D's estate was to be distributed to her. H filed claim for the underpayment as legal representative of D's estate on February 14, 1968, in accordance with section 204(d)(7) of the Social Security Act, as amended.
The question to be resolved here is whether H, as only heir and distributee of D's estate may give the Social Security Administration good acquittance for the underpayment and thus qualify for such underpayment as the legal representative of the estate for purposes of section 204(d)(7) of the Act.
Section 204(d)(7) of the Act authorizes payment of the amount due a deceased beneficiary to the legal representative of the estate of such deceased individual where, as in this case, there is no surviving spouse, child, or parent of the decedent. 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. H has the power to collect the decedent's estate. Under Section 1021 of the California Probate Code, the distributees may, after the decree of distribution becomes final, "demand, sue for, and recover their respective shares from the executor or administrator, or any person having the same in possession." The decree in the instant case does not specifically list the social security underpayment due the decedent's estate. However, it distributes to H, ". . . the residue of cash, and all other property belonging to said estate, whether described herein or not. . . . The California courts are clear that such clauses are not void for uncertainty of description; they pass title just as a literal interpretation of the language suggests they would. Hunphrey v. Protestant Episcopal Church, Diocese of Los Angeles 97 P. 187 (Cal. 1908).
It is therefore concluded that the underpayment is part of the property of the decedent's estate distributed to H and that the Administration will receive good acquittance if it pays the amount of the underpayment to her.
Accordingly, it is held that H qualifies as legal representative of the deceased beneficiary's estate within the meaning of section 204 of the Act, and may thus be paid the underpayment of $2,307 which was due the wage earner at the time of his death.