TN 2 (12-11)

PS 01815.004 Arizona

A. PS 12-016 Julia Conservatorship Account

DATE: November 9, 2011

1. SYLLABUS

This decision clarifies the issue that blocked accounts in Arizona are non-countable for SSI purposes when established by a court.

2. OPINION

QUESTIONS

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.1

SHORT ANSWER

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.

BACKGROUND

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 The court also ordered that funds in the bank account may not be withdrawn until after Julia turns 18 years old and that any withdrawals from the account must have prior court approval.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.

ANALYSIS

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 withdrawal. See id. ¶ 5. Third, a subsequent court order reaffirms these restrictions and explicitly states that access to the account is “prohibited” and that funds in the account are not to be used for Julia’s care and maintenance. See Order Affirming Conservatorship Authority and Bank Account Restrictions Until the Age of Majority. 2

Accordingly, the court’s language rebuts the presumption that funds in the account are available for care and maintenance. The restrictions in these court orders constitute clear “evidence to the contrary,” see POMS SI 01140.215(B)(2), showing that funds in the blocked account are not available for Julia’s support and maintenance and should not be counted as a resource.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Although Arizona law provides that funds in a conservatorship account are generally available for the support and maintenance of the protected individual, the court has severely restricted access to funds in Julia’s blocked account. Consequently, funds in the account are not a countable resource to Julia pursuant to Social Security Act § 1611(a), 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a).


Footnotes:

[1]

For purposes of a resource determination, the terms “conservatorship account” and “blocked account” are synonymous. See Program Operations Manual System SI 01140.215(A)(3).

[2]

The subsequent court order states as follows: [T]he Conservatorship authority is Restricted and no withdrawals shall be made from the restricted bank account until the Minor turns 18, the age of majority, and said restricted funds may not be released without approval of the Court. Access to the Minor’s restricted account is affirmed as prohibited and not intended for the care and maintenance of the Minor. Order Affirming Conservatorship Authority and Bank Account Restrictions Until the Age of Majority.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1601815004
PS 01815.004 - Arizona - 12/20/2011
Batch run: 12/20/2011
Rev:12/20/2011