SI NY01140.215 Conservatorship Accounts (RTS 432 -- 09/2012)

A. Background

All New York Region conservatorship accounts (also known as “blocked accounts”) established after 12/31/99 must be reviewed by the Center for Program Support to ensure that the determination is made in accordance with trust policy in SI 01120.201G. That section says that conservatorship accounts may be considered a “legal instrument or legal device” similar to a trust. If a determination is made that an individual has a conservatorship account that is not a legal instrument similar to a trust, regional instructions must be followed to determine how the conservatorship accounts are treated as resources for SSI purposes in accordance with State law.

The sections below provide relevant State law and guidance on evaluating whether funds are countable resources to the individual.

1. What is the difference between a conservatorship account and a trust?

A conservatorship account is a financial account in which a person or institution has been appointed by a court to manage and preserve the assets of an individual which are held in the account. In a conservatorship account the “beneficiary” retains ownership of all of the assets; in trusts, ownership of the property is transferred to the trust SI 01120.201G.

Additionally, the conservator usually does not have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiary because the funds are blocked and requests for access must be approved by the court. In the vast majority of cases, a conservatorship account will not be a legal instrument or device similar to a trust and the state specific rules for conservatorship accounts will be applied.

2. In the rare case, where a conservatorship account is a legal instrument or device similar to a trust

If a determination is made that an individual has a conservatorship account that is a legal instrument or device similar to a trust, per the criteria in SI 01120.201G, the conservatorship account will be analyzed under the trust rules to determine if it meets a trust exception per SI 01120.200D.2. through SI 01120.201D.2., and SI 01120.203B.

B. New York

1. Child under age 18 — funds from personal injury award

Conservatorship accounts (blocked accounts) resulting from personal injury awards are non-countable resources for minors in New York where all of the following characteristics are satisfied:

  • the funds were awarded in compensation for a personal injury,

  • the child resides in New York State,

  • the child’s access to the funds is blocked, and,

  • the funds are being held for the child by one or more guardians pursuant to an order of a New York court until the child turns 18 years old.

If all these characteristics are satisfied, the funds are irrebuttably a non-countable resource.

2. Child under age 18 — funds not from personal injury award

If the funds in a conservatorship account did not result from a personal injury award, assume absent evidence to the contrary, that the account is available for the minor's support and maintenance and is therefore a countable resource. We need not consider these under the trust rules since they would be considered resources under regular SSI resource counting rules.

3. Individual age 18 and over

If the individual is age 18 or over the account is presumed to be a countable resource, absent evidence to the contrary. This is true even if the funds result from a personal injury award and/or were non-countable prior to age 18 because they resulted from a personal injury award.

C. New Jersey

1. Child under age 18 — funds from personal injury award

Conservatorship accounts (blocked accounts) resulting from personal injury awards are presumed to be non-countable resources for minors in New Jersey unless there is evidence to the contrary. Evidence to the contrary shall be found to exist if the court has approved a petition to access the account for support and maintenance, such as food, clothing, or shelter. Where no petition to the court has been made, or where the court has granted a petition for purposes other than support and maintenance, the conservatorship account will retain the presumption that the funds are non-countable resources.

2. Child under age 18 — funds not from personal injury award

If the funds in a conservatorship account did not result from a personal injury award, assume absent evidence to the contrary, that the account is available for the minor's support and maintenance; it is therefore a countable resource. We need not consider these under the trust rules since they would be counted as resources under regular SSI resource counting rules.

3.