Find the answers to all your questions on terminology, process, and more.
What is unique about Continental Trust Services, LLC?
Continental Trust Services offers a unique perspective on the settlement process and the needs of families supported by our product offerings. Christi L. Fried is the President and founder of the company. For 15 years, Christi worked for numerous life insurance companies and learned how to create and administer products for the personal injury marketplace. During that time she watched and studied the trends of the market and felt she could utilize her unique skills to fill a void. She felt called to create a company that would provide one-stop shopping for settlement brokers to support their clients.
CTS is a company dedicated to servicing the needs of the structured settlement brokers in facilitating settlement. Our primary focus is customer service. We understand the issues involved in settlement and respect the expertise the broker adds to the process. With so many parties involved in settlement, we commit ourselves to addressing each situation and offering unique solutions. We provide a company for brokers to place their business because they know the calls will be answered, the answers will be correct, and their clients will be treated with respect and dignity. Let me give you a few examples. One of our services is Annuity Testimony. We offer expert witness consultation to support the annuity product. Second, Medicare Set-Aside Accounts and Special Needs Trusts are an important but; often forgotten product needed to protect government benefit programs. We help brokers and their clients to provide the best package possible for each situation.
Settlement Process FAQ
With so many moving pieces, how can you choose which attorney, trustee, administrator, broker and investment advisor to use?
It is critical to choose the best resources to protect the individual and their qualification for federal and state government benefit programs. We offer all four services together, individually or a combination thereof. Each case is unique and in order to better serve the brokers in this industry, we offer flexible solutions to ensure the desired result. Whether you need a total SNT from start to finish or you’re just looking for someone to support a family member that will be the trustee, we provide quality service at competitive prices. Our strength lies in our ability to put the proper resources together for each and every individual.
Why choose a professional trustee?
An independent professional trustee offers many advantages over family members and large banks. They are able to skillfully handle all of the areas that pose a problem for the family members and may not impose the same minimum case size requirements of large banks. Being a trustee demands a great deal of time and attention. It requires detailed accounting, resource coordination as well as fiduciary knowledge, skill and diligence. Public assistance rules are complex and constantly changing. It is nearly impossible for anyone not working continuously in the area to become and remain well-versed in the intricacies of the law and to be able to navigate the administrative web that is often involved. We have experience which can help provide additional resources for helping the beneficiary enhance or increase the level of care and services they receive. But, ultimately, we can reduce the potential liability in the decision-making process related to the settlement allocation. Continental Trust Services, LLC retains a fiduciary bond for each court ordered Special Needs Trust.
How does the trust get funded and where is the money managed?
The initial funding of the trust is typically deposited by a defendant insurance carrier or self-insured entity. In the following years, an annuity from a structured settlement issuer may pay into the trust for the benefit of the disabled individual. Although this is typical in the personal injury marketplace, there are many variations of SNT’s to tailor a solution for the individual needs of the beneficiary. We work with two entities to mange the money. If the deposit is less than $250,000 then, we suggest using a local bank that the individual is familiar with because of the FDIC guarantee. On trusts valued greater than $250,000, we work with a registered investment adviser to receive the benefit and strength of professional money management.
Who provides the actual trust document to establish the terms and conditions?
Our documents are prepared with a network of attorneys nationwide. We offer the services of local lawyers in the state in which the individual resides. Having a local attorney accomplishes two things; they have up-to-date knowledge and information regarding the rules and regulations of the government programs offered in their state and they have ongoing relationships with the various agencies which make the process of approval move with greater ease and efficiency. This relationship doesn’t stop once the trust is executed, we continue to rely upon these individuals to remain current on changes in the programs and guide us throughout the life of the trust. Our lawyers not only start the process but, continue to partner with us for as long as we need them. Their knowledge and expertise assist our members and families in navigating the changing waters of the government benefit programs.
What is a Special or Supplemental Needs Trust?
First of all, a Supplemental Needs Trust is a term used here in the United States for a type of Special Needs Trust. Commonly, the terms are used interchangeably. SNT’s are compliant with federal and state law and are designed to protect the assets of disabled persons. They are frequently used to receive proceeds on behalf of a disabled person in order to allow the person to qualify for Medicaid benefits. A common feature is that they may be run either by family members or professional trustees. Especially where a trust is established for a child, great care is needed in choosing an appropriate trustee to mange the assets and to deal with future disbursements. SNT’s are often set up under the guidance of a structured settlement broker in cooperation with a qualified legal and financial team to ensure the trust is set up correctly.
What type of expenses can an SNT pay for?
First and foremost, there are strict guidelines as to what the SNT cannot pay for. For example, any money given by the trustee of a SNT to a beneficiary is unearned income in the month received. The first $20.00 has no effect but, amounts over that reduce the SSI benefit dollar-for-dollar and may also affect Medicaid entitlement. In addition, payments for rent, mortgage, and utilities also reduce the benefit amount and should be avoided unless the trade-off increases the lifestyle and standard of living for the beneficiary. That being said, the key is for the trustee to make payments directly to providers and not to the beneficiary or in reimbursement to the beneficiary for things like:
- Out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses, medical equipment not provided by Medicaid, annual independent checkups, physical rehabilitation services, essential dietary needs, personal care attendants, health club membership
- Home improvement, vehicle maintenance
- Computers, eyeglasses, exercise equipment, telephones, TVs, radios, cameras, motor vehicles, newspapers, magazines, materials for hobbies, musical instruments, cosmetics
- Cable TV, transportation, vacations, visits to friends, entertainment, athletic training, tickets for recreational and cultural events, professional services, tuition, costs related to attend meetings, conferences and seminars, vocational rehabilitation
- Vehicle and life insurance premiums
How long does it take to set up a new file?
It takes 30 days to set up a new file. Within that 30 days there is a lot of activity going on behind the scenes to make sure the trust is administered efficiently.
- Receive payment
- Review of needs expressed by the family during the settlement
- Enter relevant information into tracking database
- Invest funds
- Receive check books and debit cards to facilitate payments
- Send a welcome package to beneficiary
What is the process for requesting a payment?
All of the beneficiary’s needs and goals should be communicated to the administrator clearly and often so that they can be met.
Once an item or service is required the following steps should be taken:
- Get it in writing! The vendor should create an invoice, or bill, for the goods or services they will be providing. The administrator will need this documentation in order to process any payment. It can be mailed, faxed, or emailed along with a signed Distribution Request Form to our office.
- All purchase requests are reviewed within 5 days of receipt for a decision based on:
- Trust terms
- Available resources
- Social security and Medicaid resource limits
- Applicable laws
- Once the request is approved, payment will be made directly to the vendor.
How long does it take to complete a payment request?
All requests are processed within 10 business days of receipt. Each request is reviewed for approval based on:
- Trust Terms
- Available Resources
- Social Security and Medicaid Resource Limits
- Applicable Laws
If there are questions or further information is needed to complete the request, a response is provided within the 10 business day time period.
Can a Special Needs Trust purchase a home?
The outright purchase of a home, whether in the name of the trust or not, will not cause loss of SSI or Medicaid. The factors involved in a complete analysis for a home purchase go beyond the scope of this text, however, here is a summary of the steps:
Needs Analysis: The administrator will work with the family to help assess the appropriate square footage, whole house accessibility, sustainable maintenance, long term community commitment, and good value.
Budget: Before searching for a home, a budget is established. The budget for a home purchase accounts for family income, maintenance costs, furnishing needs, and availability of trust funds. Some payments paid by the trust (such as utilities) may cause up to a 1/3 reduction in SSI benefits and these considerations are discussed with each family.
Ownership: Special consideration is taken when deciding ownership of the property and this is discussed in depth with each family.
Can a Special Needs Trust purchase a vehicle?
Yes. Providing safe and reliable transportation plays a key role in supporting the dignity and freedoms that are essential to a beneficiary’s quality of life.
Social Security and Medicaid resource guidelines allow for the ownership of one vehicle valued up to $4,500 unless needed for:
- Specific or regular medical treatments
- Modified for handicapped use
- Essential daily activities
The administrator assists in the process of shopping for and purchasing a vehicle by doing the following:
Needs analysis: Discuss what key features the vehicle needs to have. Does it need to be wheelchair accessible, have adapted driving options, additional storage for scooters/equipment?
Budget: Considerations that go into the budget include lifetime maintenance costs, fuel economy, percentage of available trust funds, and replacement costs. We do not purchase luxury brand vehicles or supplemental warranty policies.
Ownership: The beneficiary will own the vehicle with the Trust added as a lien holder at purchase.
Who pays for the insurance on a vehicle purchased with trust funds?
For vehicles where the title is held by the SNT, and if trust funds are available, maintenance and insurance are allowable expenses from the trust. In order to remain in compliance with income/resource restrictions of SSI and Medicaid, the trust should be listed as a loss payee on the policy. Proof of loss payee designation will be on the declarations page of the insurance policy. In the event of a claim for loss involving a vehicle purchased by the trust, payment would be required to be paid back to the trust.
Does the Special Needs Trust help maintain purchased items?
The quick answer is, yes.
Electronics: All electronics can be maintained by trust funds and replaced every three years upon request.
Vehicles: Scheduled maintenance/repair are appropriate expenses from the trust and are paid directly to vendors based on invoices. We review replacement purchases/trade in requests every 6 years.
Home: Houses owned by the trust are fully maintained as an asset of that trust. If ownership lies outside the trust, payments are provided based on the beneficiary’s share of the expense. Payments for home maintenance are made directly to vendors based on receipt of an invoice and tax identification number.