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Can I manage my mother’s Social Security if I have power of attorney?

 No. The Social Security Administration does not recognize power of attorney as conferring authority to manage another person’s benefits. Nor is it sufficient to have your name on your mother’s bank account or be her authorized representative. To manage a parent’s Social Security, you have to be appointed a representative payee by Social Security.

Your chief responsibility in this role is to make sure your mother’s benefits are used to meet her essential needs, such as food, shelter, household bills and medical care. It’s also permissible to use the money for personal needs such as clothing, household items and recreation.

Social Security advises that any remaining funds go into an interest-bearing account or savings bonds for your mom’s future needs. You can’t be an owner of the account or bonds, and you can’t mingle these funds with your own money. You’ll need to keep records of how you spent and saved your mother’s benefits; Social Security requires some representative payees to file an annual report.

Applying to become a representative payee usually requires a face-to-face interview at your local Social Security office, which you can schedule by calling 800-772-1213. You’ll need to bring proof of your identity. The Social Security publication “A Guide for Representative Payees” has more information on payees’ responsibilities.

[Editor’s note: Local Social Security offices are currently closed to walk-in visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Social Security services are available online and by phone. If you have a "dire need situation" regarding your benefits or need to update information attached to your Social Security number, such as your name or citizenship status, you may be able to schedule an in-person appointment. See Social Security's coronavirus page or call your local office for more information.]

Keep in mind

Family members or close friends of the beneficiary typically serve as representative payees, but Social Security can also appoint a qualified organization for the role.

Updated October 23, 2020

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