Today's Fort Myers News Press includes an interesting article by Fort Myers, FL elder law attorney William T. Edy, CELA, concerning Special Needs Trusts inspired by his attendance at the Academy of Special Needs Planners meeting in March. While the article is of interest concerning special needs trusts it contains certain points that are grossly inaccurate.
The article by William T. Edy, CELA' includes the following:
"The attorney hired a Certified Financial Planner, or CFP, who restricted her practice to preparing life care plans. The individual was a member of the Society of Settlement Planners, or SSP, and had completed the required course work at Texas Tech University for her Registered Settlement Planner, or RSP, designation. Until the formation of the pro-plaintiff SSP, structured settlements were largely controlled by structured settlement brokers who were the alter ego of the defense insurance industry. The RSP and the personal injury attorney both worked with a Special Needs Trust attorney, who was a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP).
The RSP prepared a life care plan which set out in detail an economic forecast of her rehabilitation, as well as future medical and financial needs. The plan was a system of charts, tables and narratives grouping Sarah's future needs into distinct categories by age, which can be easily understood by defense counsel with whom Sarah's personal injury attorney had to negotiate a settlement. The life care plan can also be easily explained to a jury if the case goes to trial, which is unlikely since liability is unquestioned. It will also assist the judge in approving the terms of any settlement. Many personal injury attorneys utilize the services of a RSP who can also explain to the court and the client the tax advantages of a structured settlement and the use of a Special Needs Trust to preserve SSI and Medicaid".
- Did William T. Edy, CELA, take the opportunity to obtain one of the free memberships that Society of Settlement Planners (SSP) was offering at the ASNP meeting?
- As a candidate in the inaugural class of the Registered Settlement Planner Program (RSP) at Texas Tech, I can state that as of the date William T. Edy's article was written, nobody has completed the required coursework for the Registered Settlement Planner (RSP) designation.
- Can one legitimately promote a planner, example or not, when the completion of 2 courses is required to meet the educational requirement of the Registered Settlement Planner (RSP) designation? In other words as of today's date there ARE NO RSPs. There are only candidates for RSP.
- William T. Edy characterizes the establishment of the Society of Settlement Planners (SSP) as the watershed event concerning the control of structured settlements. As a Founding Professional and former member of the SSP Member I disagree.
- While the establishment of the SSP turned out to be a...er... "factor", in my opinion these are far more significant:
- The PLR obtained in 1983 which stated that disclosure of cost of a structured settlement is not constructive receipt.
- The Weil case- a November 2, 1994 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which decided whether consultants who advised tort plaintiffs on structured settlements have suffered antitrust injury when they can't get information about premiums and rating practices from, or serve as brokers to arrange annuities to fund structured settlements with, life insurance carriers because of an alleged boycott by life insurance carriers and brokers who specialize in arranging annuities in behalf of tort defendants.
- The influence, intellect and innovation of Richard G. Halpern
- The hard work of qualified professionals (some of whom ARE, but most of whom ARE NOT associated with the SSP) to market to and most importantly, to educate the plaintiff's bar. Consider that a significant benefit that may now be taken for granted by plaintiff structured settlement consultants, settlement planners, "special needs planners" and elder lawyers, such as the death commutation rider, was the result of two NSSTA member firms, (one of which this author was involved with at the time) collaborating with Allstate Life Insurance Company in the mid 1990s to obtain the Private Letter Ruling which spawned commutation riders at other annuity issuers and solved a major problem for plaintiffs who wanted structures, but were concerned about estate tax liquidity issues in the event of premature death.
- The advent of the Internet and the expanded use of same by settlement professionals and attorneys to deliver marketing messages and education since the latter part of the 1990s.
- The subsequent advent of Web 2.0 media such as blogs, wikis, podcasting and the expanded use and adaptation of same by settlement professionals and attorneys to deliver marketing messages and education in the past 3-4 years.
- The dawn of the era of "business partnerships" involving the payment of large sums of money by structured settlement firms and settlement planning firms to trial lawyer associations for access in the last 5 or so years.