Representative Payee

Alternatives to Guardianship

Information graphic showing Guardianship Alternatives written in chalk on a chalk board with Representative Payee written on a yellow stickie note taped to the chalk board.

If you are a person with a disability or an older adult and you cannot manage your benefits, such as Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a representative payee is an option that can be an alternative to guardianship. A representative payee helps ensure that your money is used correctly while still allowing you to make other important decisions about your life.

What is a Representative Payee?

If there is concern that you cannot manage or direct the management of your money, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may appoint a representative payee to help. A representative payee actually receives your benefits check and helps you manage your money so that your needs are met. A representative payee can be a person or an organization and you have the right to tell SSA who you want to be your representative payee. However, if you believe that you do not need a representative payee, you have the right to prove that you are able to manage your money.

Responsibilities of a Representative Payee

  • A representative payee’s main duties are to use your money to pay for your current needs. In addition, if you have money left over after paying for your current needs, you can ask the representative payee to put the money in savings. You can save up to $2,000 without losing your SSI benefits.

  • A representative payee must keep records of your expenses and file an annual report with SSA. In addition, whenever SSA asks for it, the representative payee must provide an accounting of how he or she used or saved your money.

Your Rights

  • Once the representative payee makes sure your needs are met, you have the right to spend the remaining money however you see fit (even if the representative payee does not approve of what you want to buy with your money).

  • If you believe your representative payee is not using your money correctly, you should notify SSA immediately by calling 1-800-772-1213.

When You Do Not Need a Representative Payee

If you do not believe you need a representative payee, you have the right to prove to SSA that you can manage your money. Some examples of proof:

  • A note from a doctor stating that you are able to care for yourself;

  • An official copy of a court order stating that you can take care of yourself;

  • Other evidence that shows your ability to take care of yourself, such as a supported decision-making agreement.

You must provide this information to your local Social Security Office. Always make an appointment before visiting the office by calling 1-800-772-1213.

How to Become a Representative Payee

If a person you know is interested in becoming a representative payee, they must contact their local Social Security Office to apply. To find the office nearest you, use the Social Security Office Locator or call 1-800-772-1213.

More information is available on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Representative Payees page of the SSA website. In addition, you can get SSA’s “A Guide for Representative Payees” at your local Social Security Office, by calling 1-800-772-1213, or download a PDF in Spanish and English from the SSA website linked below in More Information.

More Information