Social Security Weighs In Regarding End of Life Planning

Social Security is clear about resources for Supplemental Security Income or SSI. Nonetheless, there is confusion among providers, families, and direct support professionals when it comes to funding end-of-life plans. In April 2015, we attended a conference where the Administration’s SSI Program Expert, Mandy Stokes, spoke about this issue.

To review, individuals receiving SSI are allowed the following resources for burial:

• burial funds up to $1,500

• insurance or life insurance up to $1,500

• cemetery plots, headstones and funerary merchandise

None of these allowances are helpful to caregivers in truly funding a funeral plan; the average cost for a traditional funeral runs between $7,000 – $10,000 nationally. Fortunately, Social Security does suggest some solutions.

The SS encourages the purchase of a pre-paid funeral plan that is irrevocable.   In other words, there must be a purchase of goods and services; and this purchase must be made into an irrevocable trust or other irrevocable instrument.

Burial reserve accounts, CDs, and even irrevocable burial savings are considered resources if the balance is over $1,500. This is because these accounts have not been used to purchase anything. There is no pre-paid plan and the funds are not attached to the delivery of any goods and services to the individual.

The following slide was part of Ms. Stokes’s talk at the MidAtlantic Pooled Trust Conference on April 10, 2015. The first two bullet points concern a permissible expenditure from a special needs pooled trust.   The third bullet point and the last bullet point are particularly relevant to how Social Security prefers how an end-of-life plan is structured.SS

Finally, we unearthed an SSA newsletter written in 2002 that is still helpful. Even though the newsletter is nearly 13 years old, the information is still good and provides a useful guideline for families and DSPs. Access the newsletter copy here.

If you have further questions about this subject, please call (215) 672-1184.