1. How does the Springhill Housing Corp. Pooled Accounts Trust ("Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust") protect my benefits?
Generally, the Social Security Administration and the Michigan Department of Human Services view all trusts as countable resources when determining eligibility for benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Supplemental needs trusts (including the Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust) are an exception to this rule.
A Pooled Accounts Trust is specifically set up to supplement (not replace) basic government support for an individual's needs. Indeed, the trustee is typically restricted from making a disbursement that might jeopardize public benefits.
By complying with federal and state laws for supplemental needs trusts (e.g., 42 USC Sec. 1396p(d)(4)(C)), funds placed in the Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust are generally not considered countable resources, which helps its participants establish or remain eligible for government benefit programs.
2. What is Community Housing Network's role with the Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust?
Community Housing Network, Inc. (also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit) is the administrative agent for the Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust. Springhill Housing Corporation ("Springhill”) and Community Housing Network are housed in the same offices and work together on a daily basis in many different capacities. As administrative agent for the trust, Community Housing Network assists with opening sub-accounts, distribution requests, record-keeping, and acts as a general liaison between Springhill Housing Corporation and the beneficiary.
3. What are the advantages of the Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust?
There are several advantages of the Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust. First, the trust was created by, and is administered by, nonprofit housing organizations. In addition to being a nonprofit, Springhill Housing Corporation is a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO), which has developed and/or manages many properties for individuals with disabilities. Community Housing Network, Inc. is also a 501(c)(3) with many programs that specifically benefit individuals with disabilities, including a Housing Resource Center that may be able to connect Trust beneficiaries to other resources in the disability community. Additional information about Springhill Housing Corp. and CHN can be found here .
Second, by pooling together the resources of many individuals, the trust is able to reduce trust expenses and administrative fees for each beneficiary and can also offer access to institutional investments that are not available to individual investors.
Third, while a stand-alone trust would require a substantial balance to make financial sense, the trust currently has no minimum balance.
Fourth, the trust works with government benefit programs and individuals with disabilities every day. This is what we do.
Finally, while we encourage all those interested in joining the Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust to seek legal advice, joining the trust is typically a lot less expensive than creating and administering a stand-alone special needs plan.
4. Who can join the Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust?
Any person with disabilities can join. Most often participants have already been determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration.
A participant joins the trust by signing the Joinder Agreement. The Joinder Agreement creates a sub-account for the individual within the larger trust. By executing the Joinder Agreement, you are agreeing to the terms of the main (i.e., master) trust.
The individual with the disability can sign the Joinder Agreement for himself or herself. Additionally, the law allows for a parent, grandparent, court, or legal guardian to sign for someone who cannot sign for himself or herself. A power of attorney for an individual can also sign if the power of attorney gives that individual the power to make a contract or form a trust.
5. I am thinking about executing a Joinder Agreement with the Trust. When should I contact you?
As soon as possible. Springhill Housing Corporation reviews the beneficiary's information before accepting the Joinder Agreement and depositing the funds into the trust. If you talk to us before executing the Joinder Agreement, the Joinder Agreement will likely be accepted as soon as it is received.
Cash assets are generally accepted by the trust. However, the trust reserves the right to accept cash assets, but not non-cash assets (such as houses). If you would like to place a non-cash asset into the trust, Springhill strongly encourages you to contact the trust beforehand to ensure that the trust will accept the asset. Once contacted, the trust strives to work with each individual and/or advisor to quickly determine if the non-cash asset is appropriate for the Trust.
6. What happens to any funds remaining in the Trust after an individual's death?
It depends on whether the assets being placed into the trust belong to the individual or someone else (a "third-party”) when placed into the Trust. If the assets belong to the individual with disabilities and a pooled accounts trust like Springhill is not utilized, the state must be repaid for the Medicaid expenses it paid on the individual's behalf before the assets can be distributed to any other individuals after death. In Michigan, one advantage of a pooled trust like the Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust is that the state does not have to be repaid for the Medicaid expenses incurred on the individual's behalf if the funds remain in the trust for the benefit of other individuals with disabilities.
If the assets placed into the trust belong to someone other than the individual with disabilities (i.e., a "third-party”), there may be additional planning options. Please contact us to discuss what options may be available.
7. What can the Trust pay for?
Government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income ("SSI”) and Medicaid, can provide funds to a person with disabilities to be used for housing, food, and medical needs. The trust usually cannot pay for things the government provides or are provided for by some other resource. However, the trust can generally pay for other items that would increase or improve the participant's quality of life. Some examples of typical disbursement requests include clothing, travel, entertainment, transportation, computers, cell phones, and other items based on an individual's needs.
8. Are there any special rules the trustee has to follow?
Yes. There are many rules and policies the Trustee has to abide by that are issued by both the state and federal government. The Michigan rules for Medicaid Assistance are found in the Bridges Eligibility Manual (BEM) and the federal policies for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are found in the Program Operations Manual Systems (POMS). The rules are online and change frequently. There are also other rules and guidelines for Home Choice Vouchers (also called Section 8 housing).
9. How do I request a disbursement?
Disbursement requests are made in writing, using the Disbursement Request Form , along with a receipt or some other proof of what is being purchased. In addition to receipts, proof could include a quote from a store, a bill for service to be provided, or potentially other writings that support the request.
Disbursement requests can be submitted, in writing, with all supporting receipts and documentation in any of the following ways:
- Email: PAT@chninc.net
- Fax: 248-269-1311
- United States Postal Service:
Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust
c/o Community Housing Network, Inc.
570 Kirts Blvd., Ste. 231
Troy, MI 48084
We will then work with the individual to ensure that the requested expense is an appropriate expenditure. Typically, Springhill will pay the vendor or credit card company directly for the expense.
10. How does the Trustee decide to pay for something?
The Trustee considers many things before paying a request. Primarily, the Trustee considers whether the disbursement will have any negative consequences to the individual's benefits. However, the Trustee may also consider other factors. For example, is there enough money in the participant's account? Is the request in the participant's best interests and for his or her sole benefit? Would the disbursement increase his or her quality of life? Is there someone else responsible for paying the request or is it available from another resource? These are just some of the questions the Trustee thinks about when reviewing requests. If the Trustee is not able to make a disbursement, the trust strives to explain to the participant why the disbursement cannot be made and to see if there is another way that the trust can help.
11. How long does it take to get a disbursement request paid?
The typical turn-around time to pay a request is one week. If a bill has to be paid on time, you should submit it for payment as soon as possible.
12. Can I add money to the trust?
Yes, money and other assets can be added to the trust at any time. Settlements from lawsuits, structured annuity payments, an inheritance, earnings from employment, and excess Social Security are a few examples of the type of assets people place into the trust.
13. What are some other rules that I need to know?
Currently, Michigan's rules for Medicaid Assistance limit the countable assets for a single person to $2,000.00 or less. That means even if someone has more than one account, like a checking and a savings account, the total funds cannot exceed $2,000.00. Various Social Security and Department of Human Services programs also have income limits. Subsidized housing and Housing Choice Voucher rates are based on income and assets.
Some programs, like SSI, have negative consequences if cash is given to the participant by the Trustee. The first $20.00 has no effect on SSI income. However, any amount over $20.00 is a dollar for dollar reduction of SSI income. The SSI program generally views the purchase of many gift cards like cash. If an individual is receiving benefits with income restrictions, the Springhill Pooled Accounts Trust disbursement procedures are designed to prevent a disbursement from being considered income if at all possible.
Generally, the trust must also be administered for the sole benefit of the participant. Disbursements that benefit other people, even friends and family, are not permitted.
14. What does it cost to join?
Initial set up of a Pooled Accounts Trust account through Springhill Housing Corporation currently costs nothing until the trust is funded. We understand that Supplemental Needs Trusts may remain empty, or not funded, for years, and may not be funded until an inheritance is paid, a gift is given, or a personal injury award is received by the beneficiary. At the time the trust is funded, a one-time joinder fee (currently $500) will be assessed to the account. After that, the following fees currently apply:
a. $100/hour, for the Trust Administrator's actual time to determine whether a disbursement request should be approved or denied and other work related to management of your sub-account.
b. $50.00-60.00/hour for Administrative staff and Accounting Department time to write the check, obtain the necessary signatures, document the transaction, mail the check, reconcile account statements, and otherwise maintain your sub-account.
c. A monthly statement fee of $21.25 will be charged to all funded sub-accounts. This fee covers account reconciliation, as well as any administrative expenses incurred in relation to deposits, disbursements or other activity related to your sub-account, including but not limited to, the cost of copying, postage, faxes, and long distance calls.
d. In addition, there are quarterly charges to the trust for investment management fees that are shared by the trust sub-accounts on a proportional basis. Tax return preparation costs may also be applicable and shared proportionally by the sub-accounts. In all instances, Springhill Housing Corporation works to keep fees and costs at a very reasonable level.
Springhill continually looks for ways to provide the best value to its beneficiaries. Thus, Springhill's fee structure is subject to change.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us .