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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Elder and Disability Law Forum - Thursday, May 24, 2018 at Empath Health/Suncoast Hospice

Co-Trustees/Attorneys Travis Finchum and Kole Long will be speaking along with Attorneys Linda Chamberlain and Charlie Robinson on Thursday, May 24, 2018 at Empath Health (Suncoast Hospice) in Clearwater FL. Topics will include Nursing Home Regulations, Dementia & Alzheimer's, Social Security Disability (SSDI) & Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as well as a Legislative Update, including New Trust Changes (with a focus on Special Needs Trust POMS and ABLE POMS updates).

You don't want to miss this educational forum which provides FREE continuing education credits. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

    Wednesday, May 2, 2018

    Travis D. Finchum to speak at Florida Guardian ad Litem Program

    Co-Trustee/Attorney Travis D. Finchum will be presenting again this year at the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program in Orlando, Florida. His topic will cover Special Needs Trusts and ABLE accounts. As you may know there have been several changes regarding SNTs and ABLE accounts.  We now have new POMS from Social Security issued and we will be posting here soon with a summary of all of the changes. Stay tuned.



    Travis D. Finchum
    Board Certified Elder Law Attorney
    Co-Trustee, Guardian Trust

    Tuesday, May 1, 2018

    Choosing a Pooled Trust or Special Needs Trust Trustee


    I’ve been working on a new presentation that I will be doing at the Family CafĂ© this summer titled “What to ask your special needs lawyer?”  It has me thinking about what questions individuals, their family members and their attorneys should be asking when “Choosing a Pooled Trust or Special Needs Trust Trustee.

    You should:

    Ask about a track record – How long has this Pooled Trust been in existence?  How many beneficiaries do they serve, how much money do they handle?  Who is investing the money?  Check out the financial advisor’s background.  What is the historical investment returns over the past year, three years, five years and ten years?  If they don’t have a track record they can share with you, be skeptical.

    Ask about insurance – Do they have Errors and Omissions coverage, a Fidelity (theft) policy, Professional Liability insurance, and Cyber Crimes insurance?  If so, how much do their policies cover?  If not, move on; you should not trust them with your or your client’s money.

    Ask about safeguards like auditing, checks and balances – Do they have an outside professional audit of their procedures and accounts?  How do we know what they are telling us is true if there is not an unbiased set of professional eyes looking at everything?

    Ask about a succession plan – Who are the key individuals involved and what happens if something happens to them?  Who will keep the business going and are those people qualified?

    Ask about what expenses are not included in the published fee schedule – Many trusts charge for investments, postage, phone calls, check writing, quick turn around times to requests and accountings.  If you just compare published fee schedules you may not be comparing apples to apples.


    We are regularly brainstorming ideas on how to remain a leader in the world of Special Needs Trust administration and customer service. We hope to see you in Orlando in June!



















    Travis D. Finchum
    Board Certified Elder Law AttorneyCo-Trustee, Guardian Trust

    Thursday, January 4, 2018

    2018 - Medicaid, SSI, ABLE Account Figures - What You Need to Know


    The 2018 figures for eligibility for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are effective now that we are into the new year.  The resource limit for a single person stays the same ($2,000) for SSI and long term care Medicaid programs.

    For a spouse at home of a person qualifying for long term care Medicaid (often referred to as the community spouse), the resource limit has increased to $123,600. 

    The income limit (maximum federal benefit rate) for SSI is now $750 per month which then makes the Medicaid income limit $2,250 (always 3 times the SSI limit).  Medicare part B monthly premiums have not increased. According to www.medicare.gov, the standard Part B premium amount will remain $134 per month. However, most people will pay less. The monthly personal needs allowance for people on Medicaid in a nursing home remains at $105.  Finally, the home equity exclusion for Medicaid eligibility went up to $572,000.  For a chart of these figures click here.

    For anyone participating or recommending ABLE accounts to individuals and families, the maximum annual contribution has been increased to $15,000 in 2018. Read our previous blog post for more information about ABLE accounts.


















    Kole. J. Long
    Elder Law Attorney
    Co-Trustees, Guardian Trusts

    Friday, February 10, 2017

    2017 Social Security and Medicaid Income and Asset Limits


    The 2017 figures for eligibility for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are effective now that we are into the new year.  The resource limit for a single person stays the same ($2,000) for SSI and long term care Medicaid programs.


    For a spouse at home of a person qualifying for long term care Medicaid (often referred to as the community spouse), the resource limit has increased to $120,900. 


    The income limit for SSI is now $735 per month which then makes the Medicaid income limit $2,205 (always 3 times the SSI limit).  Medicare part B monthly premiums have increased. According to www.medicare.gov, the standard Part B premium amount has increased to $134 per month. However, most people will pay less. The average is $109. The monthly personal needs allowance for people on Medicaid in a nursing home remains at $105.  Finally, the home equity exclusion for Medicaid eligibility went up to $560,000.  For a chart of these figures click here.



    Kole J. Long
    Elder Law Attorney
    Co-Trustee, Guardian Trusts

    Monday, January 30, 2017

    SSI, Pooled Trusts, Penalties, oh my!

    We have posted several times in the past few years about being able to utilize a Pooled Special Needs Trust (SNT) in Florida for individuals ranging from newborns to centenarians. 

    The good news is that individuals of any age can still utilize a Pooled SNT for Medicaid purposes with no problem. However, if the person is age 65 or older we need to also ask the question - are they receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

    We still frequently field inquiries regarding individuals over age 64 that are looking to maintain their SSI income, as well as their Medicaid benefits, by using a Pooled SNT.

    Unfortunately, Social Security penalizes individuals that are over age 64 who are receiving SSI if they fund a Pooled Trust.  The penalty is one month for every $735 put into the Pooled Trust, up to a maximum of 3 years.  The $735 figure comes from the maximum monthly SSI benefit as of January 1, 2017.  Note, the maximum SSI penalty is only 3 years and not 5 years like Medicaid.
    In many cases this is not an acceptable penalty and other strategies for sheltering the assets need to be explored, however, there are circumstances when it still makes sense to fund a Pooled SNT even though there will be a SSI penalty.

    Often times the individual over age 64 is receiving a combination of Social Security Retirement and SSI. In these cases only the SSI is affected by the transfer of assets to the Pooled Trust, but the Social Security Retirement income and Medicare medical insurance is not affected. The individual can place the assets in the Pooled SNT, forgo the SSI payment and then “convert” the Medicaid insurance they were receiving through SSI to the state dual eligible program, Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), or pursue another state Medicaid program. They then continue to receive the benefits that the SSI-derived-Medicaid was providing. This is a benefit for the individual, who would otherwise lose both the SSI and Medicaid for being over the asset limit, and then have to pay Medicare premiums and copays. By using the Pooled SNT  the individual can keep the Medicaid and also benefit from of the funds in the Pooled SNT .

    Finally, if the individual is institutionalized in a skilled nursing facility or other medical facility and applying for Medicaid then the SSI would be reduced to $30 anyway and the institutional Medicaid program would be picking up the entire expense of the facility.  Thus losing the $30 in this instance would likely not be a great concern.

    Please feel free to contact our office with any questions.




















    Travis D. Finchum
    Board Certified Elder Law Attorney
    Co-Trustee, Guardian Trust

    Monday, December 19, 2016

    SNT Fairness Act Passed

    The SNT Fairness Act passed and was signed by the President on December 13, 2016 and became effective immediately.  So, an individual can now establish their own (d)(4)(A) trust (pursuant to section 1917(d)(4)(A) of the Social Security Act) in addition to the classic parties:  Parent, Grandparent, Legal Guardian and Court.

    There is a newly published Emergency Message(EM) by Social Security with an indication they will be following up with more guidance.  Here is the EM:

    Effective Dates: 12/13/2016 -
    Identification Number:
    EM-16053
    Intended Audience:
    All RCs/ARCs/ADs/FOs/TSCs/PSCs/OCO/OCO-CSTs
    /ODAR
    Originating Office:
    Title:
    Information Regarding a Change in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Special/Supplemental Needs Trust Policy– Permanent Instructions Will Follow Shortly
    Type:
    EM - Emergency Messages
    Program:
    Title XVI (SSI)
    Link To Reference:

    Retention Date: June 16, 2017

    A. Purpose

    This EM provides important information regarding a change in SSI trust policy as a result of the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255).

    B. Background 

    On December 13, 2016, the President signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act. Section 5007 of this Act allows individuals to establish their own special needs trusts and qualify for the exception to resource counting under Section 1917(d)(4)(A) of the Social Security Act. 

    C. Policy for trusts established before 12/13/16

    For special needs trusts under Section 1917(d)(4)(A) of the Social Security Act established prior to December 13, 2016, the resource counting provisions of Section 1613(e) do not apply to a trust:
    · Which contains the assets of an individual under age 65 and who is disabled; and 
    · Which is established for the benefit of such individual through the actions of a parent, grandparent, legal guardian or a court; and 
    · Which provides that the State(s) will receive all amounts remaining in the trust upon the death of the individual up to an amount equal to the total medical assistance paid on behalf of the individual under a State Medicaid plan.

    NOTE: This law does not affect special needs trusts established prior to December 13, 2016.

    D. Policy for trusts established on or after 12/13/16

    Effective with special needs trusts established on or after December 13, 2016, the resource counting provisions of the SSI trust statute do not apply to a trust established through the actions of the individual, a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or a court. The other requirements in section C. above continue to apply.

    Direct all program-related and technical questions to your Regional Office (RO) support staff. RO support staff may refer questions, concerns or problems to their Central Office contacts.

    Contact us for any of your Special Needs Trust needs or questions.




















    Travis D. Finchum, Esq.
    Board Certified Florida Elder Law Attorney
    Co-Trustee
    Guardian Trust