TN 2 (12-11)
PS 01815.004 Arizona
A. PS 12-016 Julia Conservatorship Account
DATE: November 9, 2011
This decision clarifies the issue that blocked accounts in Arizona are non-countable for SSI purposes when established by a court.
You asked: (1) how Arizona law views the availability of funds in a “conservatorship account;” and (2) whether funds placed in a “blocked account” in Arizona are a countable resource for purposes of determining Julia’s eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.
Under Arizona law, funds in a conservatorship account are generally available for the support and maintenance of the protected individual. However, funds in Julia’s blocked account are not a countable resource because of the court-ordered restrictions placed on the account.
Julia is a minor and an SSI recipient residing in Arizona. In 2007, when Julia was 8 years old, she received settlement proceeds of approximately $39,500. In approving the settlement terms, the state court ordered that the funds belonging to Julia be placed in a restricted bank account labeled “The Estate of Julia M. .” See Order Appointing Conservator for a Minor and Approving Settlement of Claim, ¶ 5. The court appointed Julia’s mother, Yvonne, as the conservator. Id. ¶ 1. The court also ordered that funds in the bank account may not be withdrawn until after Julia turns 18 years old and that any withdrawals from the account must have prior court approval. Id. ¶¶ 1, 6. In a subsequent order, the court reaffirmed these restrictions. See Order Affirming Conservatorship Authority and Bank Account Restrictions Until the Age of Majority.
In general, the assets of an individual are counted as a resource to that individual for purposes of SSI eligibility. See generally Social Security Act § 1611(a), 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) SI 01110.001. Thus, as a starting point, the funds in the account belong to Julia and would be counted as a resource to her unless an exception applies.
The bank account at issue qualifies as a “conservatorship account.” 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.” POMS SI 01140.215(A)(1). The court ordered the settlement proceeds to be deposited in a bank account and appointed Julia’s mother the conservator. Accordingly, this account is a “conservatorship account.” See POMS SI 01140.215(A)(1).
To determine whether the funds in a conservatorship account are a resource, the agency first considers state law. If state law requires funds in a conservatorship account to be available for an individual’s care and maintenance, the agency presumes that funds in the account are a resource. The agency then considers any factual evidence to the contrary. See POMS SI 01140.215(B)(1) (“If State law requires that funds in a conservatorship account be made available for the care and maintenance of an individual, we assume, absent evidence to the contrary, that funds in such an account are available for the individual’s support and maintenance and are, therefore, that individual’s resource.”).
With respect to the first factor, Arizona state law provides that funds in a conservatorship account are to be used for “the support, education, care or benefit” of the protected individual. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 14-5425(A)(2) (providing that a conservator “shall expend or distribute sums reasonably necessary for the support, education, care or benefit of the protected person and the person’s dependents”). Thus, unless there is “evidence to the contrary,” the funds in Julia’s account would be counted as a resource. See POMS SI 01140.215(B)(2).
Regarding the second factor, “evidence to the contrary” includes the following types of evidence:
• restrictive language in the court order establishing the account or a subsequent order;
• state or local procedural rules for withdrawing funds from the account; and
• local court practices regarding withdrawal of funds.
POMS SI 01140.215(B)(2).
Here, restrictive language in multiple court orders is strong “evidence to the contrary,” showing that funds in the blocked account are not available for Julia’s support and maintenance. First, the court order establishing the account precludes the withdrawal of funds until Julia reaches age 18. See Order Appointing Conservator for a Minor and Approving Settlement of Claim ¶ 1. Second, the order contains the additional restriction that a withdrawal may occur only by obtaining a court order authorizing the withdrawa