retirement

Can Dad's new wife steal Social Security?

Liz WestonDear Liz,
My dad got married about seven months ago. Recently, he suffered a major stroke. His wife has not seen him since he went into the hospital. He just got transferred to a nursing facility. We learned that she went to Social Security to collect his benefits. Can she do that? Can Dad's new wife steal his Social Security?
-- Claudia

Dear Claudia,
Social Security has a "Representative Payment Program" that provides financial management for people who aren't capable of managing their own benefits.

The "representative payees" are typically spouses or other family members who volunteer to manage the money. They are required to use the money to benefit the recipient and to keep good records of how the money was spent.

If you suspect your stepmother is using the money on herself, you could call the fraud hotline for the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General at (800) 269-0271 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Or you can submit a report online anytime at OIG.SSA.gov/report.

Before you do that, however, you may want to come up with a larger plan to deal with your father's affairs. The fact that your stepmother has shown no interest in your dad's well-being, and that she likely has access to his financial accounts, is cause for concern.

It's possible your father planned ahead by creating a power of attorney that gives his wife the legal ability to make financial decisions for him. If that's the case, you likely would have to take her to court to try to wrest that control away from her.

You may wind up in court anyway. Most people don't plan ahead, and in the absence of a power of attorney, a court often has to appoint a conservator or a guardian to make decisions for someone who is incapacitated.

That can be an expensive process, and there likely will be bills from the nursing home that need to be paid as well. Medicare, the government health program for people 65 and over, typically doesn't cover nursing home and other custodial care costs.

You would be smart to hire an attorney with experience in these issues to help guide you. You can get referrals from the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys at NAELA.org.

Get more news, money-saving tips and expert advice by signing up for a free Bankrate newsletter.

Ask the adviser

To ask a question of Liz Weston, go to the "Ask the Experts" page and select "Retirement" as the topic. Read more Retirement Adviser for additional personal finance advice.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.

advertisement

Show Bankrate's community sharing policy
          Connect with us
MORTGAGE HOME EQUITY AUTO CDs CREDIT CARDS
Product Rate Change Last week
30 year fixed 4.24%  0.04 4.20%
15 year fixed 3.30%  0.12 3.18%
5/1 ARM 3.42%  0.06 3.36%
 
View Rates in your area Next
Product Rate Change Last week
30K FICO-based HELOC 4.29%  0.01 4.28%
50K FICO-based HELOC 4.04%  0.01 4.03%
100K FICO-based HELOC 3.89% --0.00 3.89%
 
View Rates in your area Next
Product Rate Change Last week
60 month used car loan 2.79% --0.00 2.79%
48 month used car loan 2.98% --0.00 2.98%
60 month new car loan 3.24% --0.00 3.24%
 
View Rates in your area Next
Product Rate Change Last week
1 Year CD 0.95%  0.04 0.91%
2 Year CD 1.15%  0.04 1.11%
5 Year CD 1.75%  0.05 1.70%
 
View Rates in your area Next
Product Rate Change Last week
Balance Transfer Cards 15.77%  0.01 15.78%
Cash Back Cards 16.48% --0.00 16.48%
Low Interest Cards 10.96% --0.00 10.96%
 
Next
advertisement
CD & INVESTING NEWSLETTER

Learn the latest trends that will help grow your portfolio, plus tips on investing strategies. Delivered weekly.

Blog

Jennie Phipps

4 steps that beat clipping coupons

Smart strategies for retirement savings will make a bigger difference than nickel and diming your spending in retirement.  ... Read more

advertisement
Partner Center
advertisement

Connect with us