SI CHI01140.215 Blocked Accounts (RTN 380 -- 11/2005)
NOTE: This section does NOT apply to trusts. If a trust is involved, follow instructions in SI 01120.200.
Review instructions concerning blocked accounts contained in SI 01120.010C.3 and D.8, and SI 01140.200A.4.c.
If state law specifically requires that the funds in a blocked account be made available for the care and maintenance of the individual, presume, absent evidence to the contrary, that the funds are accessible by petition and are considered a countable resource.
The sections below provide information on state laws and additional guidance on evaluating situations to determine whether funds are, in fact, blocked.
B. State Law
This section discusses whether state law requires that funds be made available for care and maintenance of the individual. In most instances in Region V, funds held in a blocked account are available for an individual's use, and are therefore, a countable resource for SSI purposes.
EXCEPTION: With one exception, there are no restrictions on the states using an institutionalized individual's funds for support and maintenance received during a period of institutionalization in a health care facility. (The exception is use of a tuberculosis patient's funds in Wisconsin).
A guardian of the estate of a minor has the duty to apply the income and principal of the estate as necessary for the comfort, support, and education of the minor and the minor’s dependents. A short-term guardian, however, is appointed by the guardian without court approval and cannot act as guardian of a minor’s estate, except to apply for and receive benefits under government programs. Unless the guardian is a short-term guardian, the funds in a blocked account are accessible to the guardian for the support and maintenance of a minor and should be considered a countable resource.
A guardian of the estate of a disabled adult has the duty to apply the income and principal of the ward’s estate as necessary for the comfort, support, and education of the ward and the ward’s dependents. If there is a limited guardianship, the guardian has only those powers and duties specified in the court’s order appointing the limited guardian, but the adult retains all other rights. A short-term guardian, however, is appointed by the guardian without court approval and cannot act as guardian of a disabled person’s estate, except to apply for and receive benefits under government programs. Unless the guardian is a short-term guardian, the funds in a blocked account are accessible (either by a plenary guardian, a limited guardian, or the disabled adult) for the disabled adult’s support and maintenance and should be considered a countable resource.
The guardian of a minor or a disabled person must use the minor's or the disabled person's property to meet his/her current needs for support. Therefore, the funds are accessible and countable resource.
A temporary guardian, however, has only the responsibilities and powers ordered by the court to prevent immediate and substantial injury or loss to person or property of an incapacitated person or minor. Where there is a temporary guardian, review the court order to determine whether the temporary guardian is authorized to expend the funds in the account for support and maintenance of the minor or incapacitated person.
Effective July 1, 2001, if a disabled person's estate does not exceed $10,000 ($3,500 was previous amount), the court may create a blocked account (and may also place limitations on real property) without appointing a guardian. In these cases, the court order establishing the account must be reviewed to see whether the court has directed that the funds be expended for the individual's support and maintenance. If so, the funds are considered accessible to the disabled person and counted as a resource.
The guardian and/or conservator of a minor are required to apply monies received on behalf of the minor to meet current needs for support and education. Therefore, the funds are considered accessible and a countable resource.
For a legally incapacitated individual, the guardian is required to apply monies received on the ward's behalf for his support, care, and education. Prior approval of the court is not necessary if a conservator has been appointed. If a conservator has not been appointed, the guardian need only obtain prior court approval to reimburse himself/herself or a family member for room and board he/she has provided. In either case, since the funds are required to be used for support and care, they are accessible and a countable resource.
A partial guardian may be appointed for an institutionalized developmentally disabled individual. A limited guardian may be appointed for a non-institutionalized individual. In either case, the order establishing the partial or limited guardianship must be reviewed to determine whether the court has imposed any restrictions on the guardian's or ward's access to funds in a "blocked" account. Restrictions limiting the use for other than support and maintenance would result in the funds being an excluded resource.
NOTE: A plenary guardian should be treated the same as a full guardian.
Effective August 1, 2003, the State of Minnesota adopted the Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act (“UGPPA”). The UGPPA replaced the prior statute that governed guardianships and conservatorships.
In the case of a minor, the guardian is required to use the funds for the ward’s support needs. Since the guardian is required to use the funds for the minor’s support and maintenance, funds held by a guardian in a “blocked” account should be presumed accessible to the minor and counted as a resource.
A guardian, whether of the person or of the estate of an adult, is one who is appointed by the court to exercise any of the duties and powers of a guardian as designated under state law. A guardian’s duties may (but are not statutorily required to) include the expenditure of funds to provide support and maintenance. Therefore, it cannot be presumed that funds are considered accessible and a countable resource. It will be necessary to review the court order to determine whether the expenditure of funds for support and maintenance is one of the guardian’s duties. If the order so directs, funds in a “blocked” account should be considered accessible and countable as a resource.
Unless specified in the court’s order, the conservator of the estate is not required to use funds to pay expenses associated with the conservatee’s support and maintenance. Therefore, it will be necessary to review the court order to determine whether the expenditure of funds for support and maintenance is one of the conservator’s duties. If the order so directs, funds in a “blocked” account should be considered accessible and countable as a resource. Questions should be referred to the Regional Office.
A guardian is any person, association, or corporation appointed by the probate court to have the care and management, of the person, the estate, or both, of an incompetent or minor. Where a guardian has been appointed for an Ohio SSI recipient, funds held by the guardian on the recipient’s behalf in a “blocked” account should be presumed accessible and counted as a resource. However, the order establishing the guardianship should be reviewed to determine whether the court has imposed any restrictions on the guardian’s or ward’s access to funds in a “blocked account” since the language in the order may limit the powers of the guardian. For example, a limited guardian of an incompetent or minor has only specific, limited powers as set forth in the court order appointing the limited guardian, and the incompetent or minor retains all of his or her rights in areas not affected by this court order. An emergency guardian, who is court-appointed for a maximum period of 72 hours, has only those powers that are specified in the letters of appointment, and shall be limited to those powers that are necessary to prevent injury to the person or estate of the minor or incompetent. Questions should be referred to the Regional Office.
In cases where the court does not appoint a guardian, but instead establishes a conservatorship, or directs that the minor’s or the disabled adult’s funds be deposited into a fiduciary account, examine both the court order and the account title to determine whether the individual or the fiduciary has access to the funds. If the individual has access, the funds are a countable resource. If the fiduciary has access, determine whether the funds are required to be used for the individual’s support and maintenance. If they are, the funds are a resource.
Wisconsin law requires the guardian to use an individual's funds for their support and maintenance. Therefore, funds held by a guardian in a "blocked" account should be presumed accessible to the ward and counted as a resource for SSI, with one exception.
EXCEPTION: In the case of a minor, the court may restrict the use of funds to those uses judged reasonable as directed by the court. The court order should be reviewed to determine if any restrictions apply.
In most cases, a determination on the conservatorship or block account can be made by applying state law as described above. The issue can be resolved without further development.
In some cases, there may be allegations or evidence to the contrary. These situations will require obtaining more information and evidence and the adjudicator's evaluation of the facts.
The presumption of availability of funds can be nullified if the court order establishing the conservatorship specifically blocks the account from use for food, clothing or shelter. If a subsequent order blocks the account, inquire whether the court did so only at the conservator's request and whether it can be repealed at the conservator's request. In some cases, it may be alleged that some requests for the distribution of funds have been denied. In such instances, it may be necessary to evaluate the denied petition and whether there is a pattern of denials.
A court may deny a specific request for funds despite the fact that all or most previous requests were approved. For example, the court may refuse a petition for funds for a purpose considered unnecessary or frivolous (i.e., to purchase an expensive piece of jewelry). Such a denial does not necessary preclude a determination that the funds in the account are available for the individual's support and maintenance, and as such are resources for SSI purposes. In such an instance, the FO adjudicator should review the history of petitions for any approvals and denials of the release of funds from the account. If the denial of an individual petition appears to be an exception rather than the rule, the funds may be determined to be resources for SSI purposes. The judgment of the adjudicator is a key factor in this determination.
In making determinations, the adjudicator may need to fully develop the circumstances of the situation. The adjudicator needs to consider the reasons leading to the creation of the account, uses to which the funds must or may be put, who can access the funds, and the degree of difficulty and time required to secure release of the funds. These factors and any other pertinent information must be considered in deciding whether the funds count as a resource. If documents exist detailing the creation of the account (i.e., court order establishing conservatorship), or if state statutes setting forth conditions for release and uses of released funds are applicable, then those documents and statutes would be relevant to the resource determination. The file should be documented with the adjudicator's determination on a SSA-553.