The Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP) hosted its Fifth Annual Conference March 11-12, 2011 in San Francisco. Co-chaired by Kevin Urbatsch and Michael Gilfix, the 2011 ASNP conference highlighted a growing knowledge gap between traditional structured settlement consultants (many of whom aspire to be settlement planners) and special needs attorneys (whose professional focus increasing includes settlement planning).
ASNP is one of three national associations of attorneys, the others being the Special Needs Alliance (SNA) and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), whose members engage in special needs planning. The primary difference between special needs planning and settlement planning is that special needs planning includes clients whose disabilities result from many causes including but not limited to personal injury or workers compensation accidents.
Beyond the quality of speakers and value of topics, ASNP conferences provide exceptional educational experiences for three additional reasons:
- Handout materials - Whereas most speakers at structured settlement conferences provide attendees with a power point handout or no written handout, most ASNP speakers provide attendees with original, topic-specific professional papers (in addition to outlines and/or power points) captured on a digital thumb drive.
- Sponsors and Exhibitors - Among the several national conferences S2KM attends, ASNP and NAMSAP provide the best interaction among sponsors, exhibitors and attendees. ASNP's interaction includes designated breaks when attendees are encouraged to meet with sponsors and exhibitors as well as designated tables for sponsors and exhibitors during lunch to promote extended and focused discussions.
- Knowledge of Attendees - Because ASNP conference attendees are special needs attorneys who already share a relatively high level of common professional knowledge, ASNP speakers have the freedom to expand the collective knowledge domain of attendees rather than merely reinforce existing shared knowledge.
ASNP's 2011 Speakers and Highlights
- Vincent Russo - Alternatives to Special Needs Trusts - Russo, one of ASNP's founders, highlighted planning uncertainties that justify consideration of alternative special needs strategies. In the context of such uncertainties, including life expectancies plus changes in Medicaid and estate tax laws, Russo utilized videotaped case examples to discuss several alternatives to SNTs.
- Robert Wood - Qualified Settlement Funds - Wood is a frequent speaker at structured settlement and settlement planning events. His ASNP presentation addressed single claimant QSFs and attorney fee QSFs including bad fact patterns, abusive cases and alternative definitions for "multiple claimants". Wood also discussed practical QSF issues such as the termination process, what to do with left-over assets and QSF administrative costs. Except for abusive cases, Wood believes the IRS actually likes QSFs.
- Rafael Gonzales - MSAs and Special Needs Planning - Gonzales' presentation addressed mandatory insurer reporting, conditional payments and Medicare set-aside arrangements. MSA's have become a frequent topic at almost every structured settlement and settlement planning conference - and with good reason given the many and frequent new developments. Gonzales' presentation featured summaries of the most recent case law, regulatory developments and legislative proposals.
- David Lillesand - SSI Update - Lillesand's annual Social Security Income summary for ASNP included detailed analysis of Social Security Regional Chief Counsel precedents for 2009 and 2010 some of which impact structured settlements used to fund SNTs. Lillesand also highlighted three new POMs for SNTs. Based upon his review of recent Social Security rulings, Lillesand identified a potential new issue for attorneys - expanded circumstances when legal fees are subject to Social Security approval.
- Patricia Dudek - Creative Housing Solutions - Although disabled persons historically have had few options for home ownership, home ownership is now a more realistic possibility according to Dudek. Her presentation summarized existing federal housing programs as well as financial and legal strategies for achieving home ownership for persons with disabilities.
- Cynthia Barrett - How Health Care Reform Impacts Persons with Disabilities - Barrett's discussion summarized the new Federal health care legislation and advised ASNP attendees about how to adjust their professional practice. Of special interest to structured settlement and settlement planning professionals, Barrett highlighted and discussed the questions plaintiff attorneys are most likely to ask about health care reform.
- David Foster Koth and Gregory Finn - Selecting Corporate Trustees - Among the many issues discussed during this presentation, the portion addressing structured settlement issues was among the best and most interesting. In the context of allocating trust investments among different financial vehicles, the co-presenters provided a balanced perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of structured settlements as well as the role of the secondary structured settlement market.
- Ruth Phelps - Community Funded SNTs - When a community establishes a special needs trust, several important planning considerations exist. Phelps used a case example to discuss these issues and offer a model planning solution.
- Professor Hank Greely - Diagnostic Genetic Testing - Greely, a leading expert on health law and the biosciences, summarized recent genetic testing developments including the impact of genetic testing for civil litigation (future medical costs) and insurance (age ratings).
- Michelle Ward - IRA Tax Planning - Ward provided a detailed analysis of IRA taxation focusing on distribution options and existing Federal regulations under IRC § 401(A)(9)..
Congratulations to ASNP for another outstanding educational program.
For S2KM reporting about past ASNP conferences and other settlement planning and structured settlement professional associations, see S2KM's structured settlement wiki.