Showing posts from 2012

More on Special Needs Trusts from the Social Security Administration

We have a few more nuggets from the head of Program Policy at the Office of Income Security Programs at the Social Security Administration, Eric Skidmore.   Mr. Skidmore participated via webcam at the Stetson College of Law’s Special Needs Trust National Conference on Friday, October 19, 2012.   There was a reaffirmation that a Special Needs Trust (SNT) cannot reimburse any person directly for expenses incurred on behalf of a SNT beneficiary that is receiving SSI benefits.   This would be considered in-kind income to the beneficiary and thus reduce SSI dollar-for-dollar.   Two other issues that were explored in more depth were the payments to family caregivers out of a SNT and the use of   funds in a SNT to pay back an overpayment to the Social Security Administration (SSA).   First, Mr. Skidmore clarified that the agency is not changing or adopting any new policies regarding payment of family caregivers.   There are no formal requirements that family members have any special trai

2012 Special Needs Trusts: The National Conference

The 2012 Special Needs Trust National Conference hosted by Stetson Law will be held October 17-19, 2012 in St. Petersburg, FL.  We have attended this conference for many years and always look forward to the latest news and updates that the speakers have to share with us. Our Co-Trustees Travis Finchum and Steve Hitchcock  travel year-round to programs that ensure we are staying up-to-date with the latest changes and updates regarding the administration of Special Needs Trusts. If you are planning to attend the conference, make sure you stop by to see us as we will be exhibiting at the conference and attending all three days.

We love our Guardians!

The month of October has many events on the calendar and (hopefully) also means cooler weather is around the corner.  It is also a time to celebrate National Guardianship month.  We work with both family guardians and professional guardians and we are most appreciative of all that they provide to our Beneficiaries. Guardians have many responsibilities and often times the professionals provide this service to multiple clients at one time.  We just wanted to extend our appreciation to all Guardians for their hard work and dedication to those who are in need. We appreciate you! To learn more about guardianship, click here . To find information about guardianship in Florida, click here .

Compensating and reimbursing family members

This post is an update to our previous post regarding travel for family members. Recent changes in Social Security policy have forced us to change our policies and procedures regarding compensating and reimbursing family members.   On May 17, 2012 the Social Security Administration published a change to the POMS (Social Security Manual) regarding Trusts.   Please see SI 01120.201 F.2.     You will see that Example 1 outlines what expenses will be allowed for sole benefit trusts.   Travel for family members is often paid from a Special Needs Trust.   Now, the Social Security Administration will not allow for payment of travel for family members to come and visit the beneficiary. We are still able to continue to pay for a beneficiary to personally travel and take vacation. We can, however, continue to compensate or reimburse a family member who provides services to the beneficiary; at least presently.   The Social Security Administration has hinted they may soon challenge t

Travis D. Finchum to speak at City of Clearwater event

Monday, September 17, 2012, Travis D. Finchum, one of our Co-Trustees, will speak to City of Clearwater families regarding Special Needs Trusts. Travis will discuss how to protect loved ones with special needs when parents are gone. Special Needs Trusts can shelter an inheritance to allow the funds to enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Discussion will include information on how to maximize federal programs such as Social Security and Medicaid while protecting loved ones. For more information regarding the event, click here .

Pooled Trusts are still available for 65+ in Florida

We have received questions lately regarding the use of a pooled trust for individuals who are 65 years of age or older. Florida still allows for the use of a pooled trust for individuals of any age, including age 65 or older that are applying for Medicaid programs such as ICP or HCBS. Other states have been imposing transfer penalties for individuals who are 65 years of age or older for joining a pooled trust, and we are watching this issue closely. There are limits to rules the states can impose, however, a recent Federal 3 rd District Court of Appeals case has affirmed that states cannot impose more restrictions on pooled trusts than are imposed under federal law, and, that limitations that are more restrictive than Congress’ rules for pooled special needs trusts were improper. See Lewis v. Alexander , (Case no. 2:06-cv-03963-JD, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit) Steven E. Hitchcock Co-Trustee, Guardian Trust

Co-Trustees Present to FSGA Members at 2012 Annual Conference

Travis Finchum and Steve Hitchcock , the Co-Trustees of Guardian Trust, each presented at the 2012 Florida State Guardianship Association Annual Conference in St. Petersburg, FL.  Professional Guardians from around the State gather for several days in July to learn about the latest topics, issues and trends relating to their profession and their clients. Travis presented alongside several other professionals regarding Guardianship and Alternatives to Guardianship through a program called Lighting the Way.  Click here to learn more about this program. Steve's presentation was about Guardian Advocacy. Both Travis and Steve participate in numerous local and statewide guardianship conferences and educational programs throughout the year. The next conference we will be attending is the Guardianship Association of Pinellas County's Annual Conference in September.

Changes in the POMS - Before and After Comparisons

In May we posted about a major change from Social Security regarding Special Needs Trusts and travel for family members.  We want to share with you the 4 recent changes (in April and May) to the POMS.  I have taken the relevant sections of the POMS from before the changes and compared them (thanks to Bill Gates and the folks over there at Microsoft) side-by side.  The markups show the specific changes, as well as small, insignificant formatting changes.  Click HERE for the comparisons. As we discover changes in policy that are relevant to our clients, we will be sure to post them here.  As always, feel free to contact our office with any questions you may have. Travis D. Finchum, Esq. Co-Trustee - Guardian Trust

POMS Change on Sole Benefit Trusts

On May 17, 2012 the Social Security Administration published a change to the POMS (Social Security Manual) regarding Trusts.  Although the change only added two examples to the long-standing policy on sole benefit trusts, there was a surprise. Example 1 to SI 01120.201 F. indicates a potential change in policy regarding what expenses will be allowed for sole benefit trusts.  Travel is often paid from Special Needs Trusts.  Under the change, the Administration will consider a Special Needs Trust that allows for payment of travel for family members to come and visit the beneficiary to be in violation of the sole benefit rule.  This would negate the protection of the SNT.  So, no paying for travel of visitors.  This goes for SSI recipients and all Medicaid recipients in Florida. We are able to continue to pay for beneficiaries to travel and take vacation. Please contact our office with any questions or concerns. Travis D. Finchum, Esq. Co-Trustee, Guardian Trust

Sunshine Sunday at the Glazer Children's Museum

Attention Tampa Bay area families!  The Glazer Children's Museum in Tampa is hosting Sunshine Sunday on Sunday, May 27th. Sunshine Sunday is a special day for children with special needs and their families to explore the museum with lights and sounds turned down, as well as special programming and resources. Click here to read more details and register to attend.

Over Age 65 Entry to a Pooled Trust is Still 'Ok' in Florida

Many of our friends and colleagues have been questioning us regarding the recent Federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case Center for Special Needs Trust Administration, LLC v. Olson   from April 2012.  In this case the Federal Court upheld a State of North Dakota provision in its Medicaid rules which states that a person over the age of 65 who joins a pooled trust in North Dakota invokes an asset transfer penalty for Medicaid eligibility purposes.   This is not the current situation here in Florida and in many other jurisdictions.  Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has not been consistent on this issue, however, Florida has always maintained the position that it is an acceptable asset transfer and as of now Florida Medicaid applicants can still join and fund a Pooled Trust at any age, including over the age of 65, without incurring an asset transfer penalty.   We are keeping a close eye on this issue and if the status changes we will be sure to spread the word. I a

Tampa Bay retail store for children with special needs

If you live near or plan to visit the Tampa Bay area, be sure to check out a new store in Clearwater that appeals to families with children with special needs.  Kids Toolbox is a store that provides tools of many different types to kids with physical and emotional challenges such as Autism, ADHD/ADD, Developmental Delays, Sensory Processing Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Down's Syndrome and more. Their store is a place where customers can see, feel and try products, as well as a place to go for support groups and seminars. There is a safe area for kids to play and try different items while parents shop. Products recommended by teachers and therapists are readily available in the store. Read more about the store in this Tampa Bay Times newspaper article: Also, visit the store'e website here:

Disabled Military Child Protection Act

On March 29, 2012 Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., introduced the “Disabled Military Child Protection Act” which would permit military retirees who participate in the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) to transfer their benefits to a special needs trust for their child(ren) with a disability, which would be accessible after the retiree dies. Military retirees who elect to participate in SBP pay monthly premiums; the SBP provides up to 55 percent of a member’s monthly retired pay to survivors.   Presently, these benefits must go to disabled individuals directly and would count as income, thus jeopardizing programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This would protect the Survivor Benefit and the public benefit for the child with a disability under the umbrella of a protected special needs trust. For more information regarding the Disabled Military Child Protection Act, read the article published on April 3, 2012 by Karen Jowers of the Army Times. http://www.armytimes.

Steve Hitchcock Speaking at Guardian Program

Wednesday April 18th Steve Hitchcock will be presenting at the Suncoast Guardian Association's second annual April seminar: THE THREE A’S: A CCESSING INFORMATION, A DVOCATING FOR AND A DDRESSING THE NEEDS OF THE WARD. Steve's presentation is titled "Ethics - The Guardian and the Guardian's Attorney." Other topics being presented include Cyber Law Investigation, Accessing Medicaid and VA Benefits for the Ward, and Making Medical Decisions.  5 CEU's will be provided and there is a registration fee. To learn more about the Suncoast Guardian Association and how to register for this event, contact Maxwell Sargent , President of the Suncoast Guardian Association.

AFELA Elder Concert 2012

Many of the professionals that we work with find that the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorney (AFELA) Elder Concert is a worthwhile and educational conference for all elder care professionals.  AFELA has made it convenient for professionals all around Florida to attend by holding the event in two cities: Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. Guardian Trust is proud to sponsor the Elder Concert and we hope to see many of you there. Be sure to stop by our table and say "hello" to us! The Elder Concert in Tampa will be held on Friday May 4th. Steve Hitchcock will be facilitating at one of the sessions. The Elder Concert in Fort Lauderdale will be held on Friday May 11th. Travis Finchum will be facilitating at one of the sessions. Continuing Education credits are available for attorneys, registered guardians, licensed clinical social workers, marriage & family therapists and mental health counselors.  See the  AFELA website for more details on this great event.

ASNP Update

Listening to Eric Skidmore raise the issue again, I realized we all need to be careful.   Eric is the Supervisor in the Office of SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and Representative Payee Policy at the Social Security Administration in Baltimore, Maryland.  His group writes the POMS (Program Operations Manual System) sections on resources, income and state supplementation.  The POMS is the manual for Social Security workers to follow in regards to the SSI program.   The first time I listened to Eric speak on the concerns regarding reimbursement was at Stetson Law School's Special Needs Trust Conference in October 2011.  This month Eric spoke to us at the Academy of Special Needs Planners annual conference in Memphis, Tennessee.  Eric reiterated the Administration's position that if a Trust reimburses anyone who pays for "anything" for a person receiving SSI they will consider the payment to the third party as in-kind income (not In Kind Support and Maintenance

Welcome to our Blog!

We are excited to announce the launch of the Guardian Trust blog! Our blog will feature information that we feel may be useful to professionals assisting clients with Special Needs Trust issues, as well as information for family members and beneficiaries doing their own research. We will also feature blog posts from our Co-Trustees, Board Certified Elder Law attorney Travis D. Finchum and Elder Law attorney Steven E. Hitchcock . Aside from serving as Co-Trustees for the various Guardian Trusts, Travis and Steve are practicing attorneys whose practice focuses on estate planning, probate, trust administration and guardianship, with a special emphasis on helping families plan for a member with special needs. They also help families plan for incapacity through alternatives to guardianship. Travis will be speaking to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Pasco County in April about Special Needs Trusts.  Steve will be speaking with professional guardians of the S