TN 4 (03-92)
SI 01140.215 Conservatorship Accounts
1. Conservatorship account
The term “conservatorship account” refers to 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.
For SSI purposes, the “individual” for whom a conservatorship account is held may be a claimant, recipient, or other person whose resources are deemable to the claimant or recipient.
3. “Blocked account”
Regional POMS instructions may refer to conservatorship accounts as “blocked accounts.” Assume that the term “blocked account,” where it appears in regional POMS instructions, is synonymous with the term “conservatorship account.”
The following policy does not apply to trusts, which are discussed in SI 01120.200.
1. Assumption of availability for support and maintenance
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.
A State statute may not specifically address the issue of whether funds in a conservatorship account must be made available for the care and maintenance of the individual. Other State statutes or case law may specifically prohibit the use of funds held in the conservatorship account for general support of the individual in certain circumstances. Field office (FO) adjudicators should follow regional instructions regarding availability presumptions that apply in those States.
2. Examples of “evidence to the contrary”
Examples of evidence to the contrary include (but are not limited to):
restrictive language in the court order that established the account or in a subsequent court order;
State or local procedural rules for the withdrawal of funds from the account; and
local court practices regarding withdrawal of funds.
3. Significance of court petitions for release of funds
The fact that an individual or his or her agent must petition the court for withdrawal of funds does not mean that the funds may be assumed to be unavailable for the individual's support and maintenance (and, therefore, not a resource for SSI purposes).
Denial by the court of a request for withdrawal of funds does not necessarily mean that funds in the account are unavailable for the individual's support and maintenance. If the court approves requests to withdraw funds in order to provide support and maintenance, and only disapproves requests for non-essential items, the funds are considered available and a resource for SSI purposes. The FO adjudicator should review the history of petitions for (and approvals and denials of) withdrawal of funds. If a denial by the court appears to be an exception rather than the rule, the funds may be determined to be a resource for SSI purposes.
1. Follow regional instructions
Refer to regional instructions regarding State law, State or local rules, or local court practices regarding the conditions under which funds held in conservatorship accounts may be withdrawn.
2. Obtain the individual's allegation
Obtain the individual's statement either signed or recorded on a DROC regarding:
who can withdraw the funds;
the method for withdrawing funds (e.g., petition the court or unlimited ability to withdraw by the individual or his or her agent);
uses to which funds may or must be put; and
any restrictions on availability or use of funds.
If the court has restricted use of funds in the account at the individual's or his or her agent's request, obtain the individual's allegation as to whether the restriction(s) can be removed by request or petition.
3. Obtain evidence as necessary
If you must verify the value of the funds (see SI 01140.010 for general verification requirements) or if the individual's allegations suggest that funds in the conservatorship account are not a resource for SSI purposes, ask the individual to submit evidence regarding the account. Obtain evidence to document the issues which must be addressed. This evidence may include:
the court order establishing the conservatorship and the account;
any account records showing withdrawals, deposits, and balances;
prior applications or petitions for withdrawal of funds (if applicable), including any correspondence or notices from the court responding to the applications or petitions; and
any other documents or evidence in the individual's possession pertaining to the conservatorship account.
4. Make resource determination
Document on an SSA-5002 (Report of Contact) or an SSA-553 (Special Determination) your determination as to whether the funds in the account are a resource for SSI purposes. Refer to regional instructions, as applicable.
If the court has restricted use of funds in the account at the individual's or his or her agent's request and the restriction(s) can be removed at the individual's or agent's request or petition, determine that the funds are a resource for SSI purposes.
If due to the complexity of the conservatorship account or the history of petitions for funds, you are unable to determine the status of the account for SSI resource purposes, refer the case to the ARC, Program Operations and Systems (unless regional instructions specify otherwise).
The following examples illustrate policy and procedures for conservatorship accounts.
1. Funds assumed to be available for support and maintenance
The claimant, a disabled 28-year-old individual, received a $20,000 court-ordered personal injury award as a result of an accident on a city bus. The court order stipulates that the claimant's legal guardian must petition the court for withdrawal of funds as needed. The order does not place any restrictions on how the funds may be used on behalf of the claimant.
The CR consults regional instructions on conservatorship or “blocked” accounts and determines that, under State law, the funds in an account such as this may be assumed to be available for the individual's support and maintenance. Therefore, the CR determines that the funds in the account are a resource for SSI purposes.
2. Funds not available for support and maintenance
Same situation as above. However, regional instructions indicate that State law restricts the use of personal injury funds held in conservatorship accounts to medical expenses only. Since the funds are not available for food, clothing, or shelter, the CR determines the funds are not a resource.
3. Petition for withdrawal of funds denied
The SSI recipient, a 2-year-old child, has received a $100,000 medical malpractice award. The court order requires that the child's parents petition the court for withdrawal of funds. The parent/payee alleges that a recent petition for withdrawal of funds was denied.
The CR asks the payee to submit evidence of the petition in question and all prior petitions. Examining the evidence, the CR concludes that all but one petition for withdrawal of funds were approved for the general support and maintenance of the child. The court denied one petition, citing the intended use of the funds. The court characterized the intended use as “nonessential for the child's care.”
Since the one denied petition does not negate the presumption that the funds are available for the child's support and maintenance, the CR concludes that the funds are a resource for SSI purposes.