In April I blogged about Social Security Representative Payees (SSRP). But a question after my presentation last Monday night at the Chatham County (NC) Senior Center prompted this clarification.

The question: Does a caregiver need to ask the Social Security Administration (SSA) to appoint her as SSRP for her husband if the two have a joint bank account and the government automatically deposits her husband’s monthly benefits into that account? This is actually two questions. The first is whether the wife needs to be appointed as SSRP for her husband. If he’s unable to manage his affairs (incompetent), the answer is yes.

Assuming he’s incompetent, the second question is whether it’s acceptable for the husband’s Social Security benefits to go into their joint bank account. The answer is yes. “A common checking account for all family members living in the same household who receive benefits may show a parent or spouse as the owner of the account,” according to the SSA (emphasis added).

The answer is different if, for example, the SSRP is the beneficiary’s son. In that situation, the son must set up a separate bank account for his mother’s Social Security benefits. Although the mother owns the account, she cannot have direct access to it because she’s incompetent. The SSA recommends the son use one of two methods for titling the bank account:

“(Beneficiary’s name) by (your name), representative payee.” or

“(Your name), representative payee for (beneficiary’s name).”

Hope this helps! Let me know if you still have questions.