Planning for Life

Divorce-Created SNT Deemed Self-Settled for Creditor Purposes

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 22, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis

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In determining eligibility for MassHealth and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the state and federal agencies treat self-settled trusts -- those created by the applicant for benefit -- and third-party trusts -- those created by someone else -- entirely differently. The assets held in a self-settled trust are considered available to the applicant for benefits to the extent the trustee has discretion to distribute them to the applicant or to use them for her benefit. The assets of a third-party trust are only considered available to the extent the trustee actually distributes them to or uses them for the applicant for benefits.

These rules track the rules for creditors. With some exceptions, creditors can gain access to assets in trusts created by the debtor and cannot gain access to trusts created by someone else for the benefit of the debtor. The issue in the case of Calhoun, et al. v. Rawlins (93 Mass. App. Ct. 458, June 27, 2018) is whether a trust created by one divorcing spouse for the benefit of the other spouse is protected from the creditors of the beneficiary spouse. This has significance for special needs planning because it's not unusual for special needs trust to be created in the context of divorce.

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Topics: special needs planning, divorce, Special Needs Trust, creditor protection

Does Pfannenstiehl Case Undermine Asset Protection in Massachusetts?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 22, 2015

By Harry S. Margolis

An interesting court decision with an interesting name may undermine the efforts of parents to provide for their children and grandchildren while protecting their inheritance from lawsuits and in the event of divorce. In Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl (Mass. App. Ct., Nos. 13-P-906, 13-P-686 & 13-P-1385, August 27, 2015), the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that a portion of a trust created by the parents of Curt Pfannenstiehl for his benefit and that of his siblings would be considered as a marital asset in his divorce from Diane Pfannenstiehl. This ruling, which undermines centuries of established trust law, was based in part on the equities of the situation and in part on a misunderstanding of wording commonly used in trusts.

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Topics: trusts, asset protection, divorce

How Do Divorce & Remarriage Affect Social Security Benefits?

Posted by Sarah Foster on October 18, 2013

By Sarah Foster

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Topics: social security, Estate Planning, divorce

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