Another week, another celebration for all of us at The Special Needs Trust Network (SNTN)! Last year on Feb 28, five days after receiving our 501c3 letter of determination noted Elder Law attorney John J. Campbell agreed to join our board. Saying we were thrilled, and excited to have him join our team wouldn’t do justice to how we really felt! John brings over 16 years experience in the Elder Law & Estate Planning field and over 26 total practicing law. Over this past year we’ve enjoyed his company, expertise, and dedication that he has brought to the board.
John is a member of Colorado Bar Association, Trusts & Estates Section and Elder Law Section; the Arapahoe County Bar Association; the Missouri Bar Association; the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys; and the National Alliance of Medicare Set-Aside Professionals. He currently sits on the Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors for 2010-2012; and the Executive Council for 2010-2012. John previously was the Co-Chair of the Colorado Bar Association, Elder Law Section for 2006-2008 and was selected as a Fellow of the Colorado Bar Association in 2006.
John is a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation.* and a Medicare Set-Aside Consultant Certified (national certification through the International Commission on Health Care Certification).
*(Please note: *The State of Colorado does not certify attorneys as experts in any field.)
John currently owns and is the senior attorney at The Law Offices of John J. Campbell, PC a small boutique firm specializing in the area of Elder Law. The practice concentrates in the areas of elder law, estate planning, probate law, guardianships and conservatorships, Social Security, SSDI, SSI, Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Set-Aside Trusts, Disability Trusts and special consultation in settlement of personal injury and worker’s compensation claims involving public benefits.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, magna cum laude, from the University of Missouri – St. Louis, and received his Juris Doctor, University of Missouri – Columbia, School of Law (top one-third), where he won the Ike Skelton Memorial Award for Trial Practice.
So while we’ve had the wonderful opportunity to get to know John better over this past year, here’s 5 Questions with him for you to get to know him as well.
1. You’ve spent your career in Elder Law & Estate Planning, what called you to this area of practice?
After ten years in a general practice, I started to feel like I was just doing a job every day. My only reward was a paycheck. I decided wanted to practice in an area where I felt I was actually helping people in need. Elder Law certainly proved to be just such an area. Assisting clients to navigate the complex and sometimes conflicting laws and rules affecting seniors and people with disabilities gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I never experienced before.
2. When the word “Trust” is mentioned most people think they don’t have enough money and it’s only for the very wealthy. Is there a real financial minimum or should more people consider the use of a trust?
Trusts can be useful estate planning and long term care planning tools, but like a set of tools, it is essential to choose the right one for the job. There is really no set financial minimum, unless you are planning on funding a trust that will be professionally administered by a trust company or bank. However, many people set up revocable living trusts and act as their own trustees, primarily because they wish to avoid probate at a later date. There are also complex trusts for tax planning that most people would not need unless they have sufficient assets to constitute a taxable estate. Finally, there are special needs trusts and pooled trusts which are often essential in ensuring eligibility for SSI or Medicaid as well as providing a supplemental fund to pay for items and services not covered by these public benefit programs. Whether a trust is recommended for a particular individual, as well as what type of trust may be appropriate, will depend entirely on what the individual is trying to achieve.
3. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 included some new and harsh restrictions including a cap on the exempt equity value of a Medicaid recipient’s principal residences and changes the law on Medicaid’s treatment of annuities and entry fees for Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs). Am I correct in thinking this seems to put a lot of people in a tough situation and makes Special NeedsTrusts, Miller Trusts, Income Trusts far more valuable to those who need them. These are items most people don’t consider when they save for retirement, how and when should they think of these trusts? How do people find out about these trusts?
Medicaid long term care planning has definitely become perversely complex as a result of the DRA. Many traditional planning techniques are still viable, but a bit more difficult to apply. On the other hand, the fact that the DRA lengthened the Medicaid look back period to 60 months for all transfers without fair consideration, there is less of a disincentive to use trusts for Medicaid planning. For those who prefer not to undertake a complex asset preservation plan, Special Needs Trusts and pooled trusts provide an excellent tool. Miller Trusts are used in connection with traditional Medicaid planning (as it has evolved since the DRA went into effect in 2006), and are also essential to allow individuals to qualify for Medicaid long term care benefits when their incomes are above the Medicaid income cap but not sufficient to allow the individual to pay privately for nursing care. A Miller Trust has a very specialized application and would not be appropriate for any other situation. Special Needs Trusts and Pooled Trusts also should be used only when there is a reasonable expectation of the need for long term care in the foreseeable future. This may be due to a severe disability, age or even a family history of dementia. However, these types of trusts are fairly restrictive regarding the types of distributions allowed and they typically cannot be administered by the individual funding the trust, so they do not lend themselves well to use for simple estate planning to avoid probate or complex tax planning to minimize or avoid estate or gift tax planning. Anyone wishing to obtain information on various types of trusts and, particularly, what types of trusts might be appropriate for him or her should consult with an attorney with experience in this area. This will most likely be a Trusts & Estates, Estate Planning or Elder Law attorney.
4. Why were you interested in joining the board of SNTN?
An important part of my personal philosophy regarding my professional practice is that I feel obligated to give back. I do a lot of volunteer work at the Colorado Bar Association, including serving on the Executive Council of the Elder Law Section as a past section co-chair; and serving on the Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors and its Executive Council. Similarly, when I was invited to serve on the Board of SNTN, I saw it as an opportunity to serve the people to whom I have dedicated my practice. It is a way of giving back a little something to the community.
5. When you’re not dealing with your legal practice, clients, and SNTN what do you enjoy doing? 5 new things on your i-Pod?
My favorite pastimes are reading, fly fishing, camping and poker. I do not have a lot of new music on my I-Pod, but you should see all the downloads on my Kindle!! The outdoorsy stuff is pretty much confined to the warmer seasons. On the other hand, I play poker at least three times a week (just for fun, although I will go “up the hill” to Blackhawk or Central City a couple of times a year). I also love baseball, football and basketball and I am eternally grateful that their respective seasons do not overlap to badly or I might have to set up three TVs in my den!