Miller Trusts | Income Only Trust

Paul B. Bartlett, Attorney - Tucson, Arizona

Purpose of a Miller Trust | Income Only Trust

A Miller Trust solves a single problem. The problem is that the person applying for ALTCS (Medicaid) has too much income. A Miller Trust is not useful for any other purpose. If a person applying for ALTCS has more income than ALTCS allows (see Income Criteria below) a Miller Trust will enable the person to qualify for ALTCS anyway. If you are not dealing with an excess income problem, there are other trusts that may help you conserve your resources when applyihng for ALTCS.

Income Criteria

In Arizona, in 2018, the maximum income that a single person can have and still qualify for the ALTCS program is $2,250.00 per month.

If the single person has more than $2,250.00 income, but less than $7,134.44 per month (in Pima and Maricopa County, $6,307.74 in other Arizona Counties), the single person can do a Miller Trust. (The maximum number listed above represents the average monthly cost of care in a nursing facility as calculated by ALTCS.  The stated maximums are current through September 30, 2018.)

If a patient is married but has checks coming in his name amounting to more than $2,250.00, the ALTCS eligibility worker will average the income of both spouses to see if the patient can pass the income test of $2,250,00.

If the married patient has more than $2,250.00 income, according to the averaging technique described above, but less than $7,134.44 per month (in Pima and Maricopa County, $6,307.74 in other Arizona Counties), the single person can do a Miller Trust.

Directing Income into the Miller Trust

The term “Miller Trust” is an informal name.  The official ALTCS name is an Income Only Trust.  A more accurate name for this trust is an “Income Cap Trust”. It has also been called an “Income Assignment Trust”. This is because, after the trust is created, the patient assigns his or her right to receive social security and pension to the trust.

In the eyes of ALTCS, if the Miller Trust is receiving income, the patient is not receiving that income. This is how the patient solves the excess income problem. ALTCS no longer requires that the patient attempt to assign all income from all sources into the Miller Trust, just the excess income.

Assigning less than all income into the Miller Trust

If the patient is going to be receiving care at home, and not in an institution, it is recommended that the patient assign only so much income into the trust as will render him or her income eligible. This is because the patient incurs no share of cost obligation when he receives his care at home. Those funds then accumulate in the Miller trust which must be paid back to ALTCS upon the patient's death to reimburse the program for the patient's accumulated cost of care.

As an example, Mr. Berry receives his care at home. He has Social Security of $800 per month and a pension check from his union for $900 per month. He should assign only his social security into the trust.

Social Security always cooperates with such requests. However, some pension payers do not always cooperate with requests to assign income into a Miller Trust. Fortunately, ALTCS will consider the patient to be income eligible provided that the total of income received by the patient outside the Miller Trust does not exceed $2,250.00. In most instances, it is the Social Security alone that puts the patient over the income cap.

If the patient is receiving care in a nursing home or in an boarding home, there is no apparent advantage to keeping certain income items out of the Miller Trust. This is because ALTCS assesses a share of cost which will prevent substantial funds from accumulating in the Miller Trust.

Who can create a Miller Trust?

What if the patient is too disabled, physically or mentally, to sign a trust? If the patient has previously made a power of attorney for finances, the agent under that power of attorney can create the Miller Trust. ALTCS is liberal in permitting this, even if the power of attorney does not explicitly authorize the creation of a Miller Trust. If the patient is too disabled to understand that he or she is creating a trust, and if the patient has not granted a financial power to another, it will be necessary to obtain court conservatorship in order to create the Miller Trust. An exception to this is that a spouse can create a Miller Trust on behalf of the patient even without a power of attorney.

Establishing the Miller Trust Bank Account

Once the Miller Trust is created and signed by the patient or the patient’s agent under Power of Attorney, the next step is to create a bank account in the name of the trust. The tricky part is that the bank account cannot have an opening balance. Most banks hate this requirement and may not accommodate you. National Bank of Arizona is exceptionally cooperative in establishing these trusts.

Once the bank account is opened in the name of the trust, the next step is to write social security and the pension payers and ask them to direct deposit future checks into the bank account.

How are the funds in the Miller Trust spent?

If all of the patient’s income flows into the trust, the trustee may retain a personal needs allowance for the patient. The amount of the personal needs allowance is $112.25 in 2018. The trustee can spend this money on the patient, or simply distribute it to the patient. The trustee may pay the ALTCS approved Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance to the community spouse. The trustee may and must pay the patient’s share of cost (if the patient is not at home). The trustee may, with ALTCS approval, pay the administrative fees associated with the trust.

How can the patient have a Miller Trust and still stay at home?

More ALTCS patients receive their care at home than out of their homes. The program for receiving care at home is called "HCBS" (Home and Community Based Services). When a patient resides at home on HCBS, ALTCS rules automatically increase the patient's Personal Needs Allowance to $2250 in 2018. (See section 1203.01 of the Eligibility Policy Manual.) This means that the Miller Trust trustee can and should distribute all of the patient's income to the patient, up to $2199. The patient can then spend the personal needs allowance money (if it accumulates it will count against the patient's resource eligibility). If Patient has a spouse, the trustee of the Miller trust must pay to the spouse the monthly spousal allowance as computed by ALTCS. Neither of these two types of allowances have any limitations on them in terms of the kind of expenditures that the patient or spouse can make with the money. All other money to be distributed by the trustee of the Miller trust must be spent on categories explicitely allowed by statute.A.R.S. §36-2934.01 Categories include: Trust Taxes, Trust Investment Fees, trustee, accounting and attorney fees related to trust administration, health insurance premiums, medically necessary expenditures, spousal maintenance, guardianship fees, living expenses for food, clothing and shelter and others.

When the patient dies, any money remaining in the Miller Trust must be remitted to the ALTCS program.

A Miller Trust is not for long range planning

We do not recommend that you do a Miller Trust unless you intend to apply for ALTCS soon thereafter (60-90 days). A Miller Trust is not a long range planning tool. A well elderly person should make a power of attorney that would enable another to execute a Miller Trust on his behalf.

Mr. Bartlett prepares a Miller Trust during a single client appointment in most cases. The patient typically pays the legal fees, and the payment is countable towards the patient's spend down. If you need assistance with a Miller Trust, call Mr. Bartlett at (520) 750-1061.

If you wish to see how you can order a Miller Trust | Income Only Trust online at a substantially reduced fee:

Miller Trust Timing Issues

You do not want approval of ALTCS eligibility to be slowed by submission of your Miller Trust.  For this reason, we recommend that at the time you submit your Miller Trust to the eligibility worker, you do two other things.  First, obtain from the eligibility worker a form that notifies ALTCS what you expect will be the monthly income and expenses for the trust and fill it out a and submit it immediately.  Second, if you are going to assign the patient's social security into the trust, and the patient cannot request that assignment himself, you will need to become social security representative payee through the Social Security Administration.  Request that status without delay.

You can revoke a Miller Trust | Income Only Trust

You can discontinue the use of a Miller Trust at any time.  Some people find this reassuring because they want to try out ALTCS while keeping other options open.

Use the Calculator to see if the Patient Needs a Miller Trust

If you wish to see how you can order a Miller Trust online at a substantially reduced fee:

Phone for an Appointment

  • 520-750-1061

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