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29th Annual FOCUS Education Conference Today

FOCUS If you’re going to FOCUS’ 29th Annual Education Conference today, please stop by and say hello!

We’ll be sharing information about how to appeal Katie Beckett denials and special needs trusts.

Dunwoody United Methodist Church
1548 Mt. Vernon Road, Dunwoody, Georgia

8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Even If Your Child Doesn’t Receive SSI Or Medicaid, You May Still Need To Set Up A Special Needs Trust

special needs trustSocial Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that typically provides cash stipends to people who have paid into the Social Security system and who can’t work due to disability.  (In some cases, it is possible to receive SSDI even if you haven’t worked.) In most cases, when someone has been eligible for SSDI benefits for two years, the individual also receives Medicare, even if he or she is under age 65.

From a special needs planning perspective, SSDI benefits are fairly easy to deal with because the program does not have an asset limit or a restriction on unearned income, like interest or dividends.  This means that a millionaire who meets the program’s requirements can receive SSDI benefits alongside a completely impoverished person. It also means that from a purely financial perspective, a person with resources doesn’t need to shelter her assets in a special needs trust in order to qualify for SSDI benefits as she would have to do if she were receiving means-tested government benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid.

But this does not mean that SSDI beneficiaries should not have special needs trusts. In fact, there are many benefits to having a special needs trust that go far beyond the ability to maintain eligibility for SSI or Medicaid. For instance, a person with a mental illness may be unable to manage money. A special needs trust would allow that person’s funds to be invested and spent appropriately by a qualified trustee.  In another case, a person with special needs may be able to handle her personal finances but she might live in an environment where she is susceptible to mistreatment by others. In this situation, a special needs trust would provide an appropriate buffer between the beneficiary and the people who would otherwise take advantage of her.

When it comes to special needs planning, you never want to take anything for granted.  Just because an SSDI beneficiary might not need Medicaid and SSI now, it doesn’t mean she won’t qualify for, or require, services from those programs in the future. For instance, an SSDI beneficiary may rely on private health insurance and Medicare, but if she loses her insurance and Medicare doesn’t cover certain medications, it might be incredibly important for that beneficiary to receive Medicaid, which could make a special needs trust essential.

Finally, there is one particular type of special needs trust, called a first-party special needs trust, that is specifically designed to hold the beneficiary’s own assets. In most of the examples above, this is the type of special needs trust that would be required. Unfortunately, only a parent, grandparent, guardian or court can establish a first-party special needs trust for the beneficiary, even if she is completely competent to create a trust on her own. Therefore, if the parent or grandparent of a person who receives SSDI has the capability, it is probably a good idea for him to create the trust for his child or grandchild, on the off-chance that it will have to be used later, instead of relying on an expensive and time-consuming court process.

There are lots of reasons to have a special needs trust beyond merely qualifying for government benefits.  If you or a loved one receives SSDI and doesn’t have a special needs trust, our attorneys can help you determine the best estate planning option to meet your needs. Contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678.325.3872.

Consider Creating A “Care Committee” For Your Special Needs Child

Special Needs TrustWhen setting up a special needs trust, we ask parents to designate someone to serve as their child’s trustee. The trustee’s job is to ensure the child receives the best possible care – without necessarily being the primary care giver.

The trustee oversees things like the child’s finances, overall health, housing, benefits and education. However, finding someone who is extremely knowledgeable in all of these areas and knows all of the members of your family and how they interact with one another – can be a challenge. As a result, we often recommend creating a Care Committee.

However, before we get to care committees, let’s do a quick refresher on special needs trusts. Special needs trusts are legal instruments specifically designed to hold property for a person with disabilities.

Every special needs trust has a trustee – the person responsible for managing the trust’s assets for the benefit of the person with the disability. A special needs trust gives the trustee very broad authority to use the trust funds in whatever way she thinks will best help the trust beneficiary given the beneficiary’s current and future needs and other resources.

Because the trustee of a special needs trust has these discretionary powers and cannot typically be forced to make distributions to the beneficiary, the funds in the trust do not harm the beneficiary’s ability to qualify for government benefits like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

This brings us back to Care Committees. Since the trustee of the special needs trust cannot always be expected to know everything about the beneficiary’s care and needs, parents may decide to name several knowledgeable people to serve as a formal advisory committee.

The Committee can include any number of people, but it is typically composed of a small group that parents select because they understand the beneficiary’s needs. Committees are often made up of caregivers, doctors, social workers, family members, lawyers and other advocates. The Committee members are supposed to advise the trustee about the best way to utilize the trust assets, even though the trustee usually retains the ultimate authority over the disposition of the trust.

However, in some cases the trust will mandate that the trustee must follow the committee’s advice unless it is clearly against the beneficiary’s best interests.

The Care Committee also facilitates a conversation between the trustee and the beneficiary. Since this relationship can sometimes be difficult, especially if the trust beneficiary is fully competent and resents the trustee’s control over the assets, the Care Committee can advocate for the beneficiary’s needs without antagonizing the trustee.

The Committee can also take some of the pressure off of the trustee, because she will have help making difficult decisions that a lone trustee may agonize over.

Not all parents feel the need to create a Care Committee for a special needs trust, but if you are interested in establishing one, we can help you design the right committee for your family. Contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678-325.3872.

Two Things Every Special Needs Parent Should Know

Free workshop hosted by Jeyaram & Associates

Jeyaram & Associates is hosting a free workshop on how to win an appeal if you’ve been denied Katie Beckett and how to protect your special needs child’s benefits with a special needs trust.

DJ Jeyaram, Esq. is the leading Katie Beckett appeals expert in Georgia and the father of a special needs child. Mr. Jeyaram has intimate knowledge of the Katie Beckett appeals process and is a former administrative law judge.

After the presentation, Mr. Jeyaram will answer questions about appeal Katie Beckett denials and how to protect special need children’s benefits – now and in the future.

Special Needs Trust

  • Who: Special needs parents and caregivers
  • What: Free workshop presented by DJ Jeyaram, Esq.
  • When: October 22nd at 6:30 p.m.
  • Where: Kidspeech in Lawrenceville, GA

***Space is limited. Must RSVP to Lheyward@jeylaw.com by 10/17***

What to Do When Your Special Needs Child Turns 18 | Financial Support

Special Needs Trust

The financial planning steps you take when your special needs child turns 18 will establish the foundation for your child’s support and well being for the rest of his or her life.

If you make the wrong decision during this transition, it could affect your child well into the future – often when we’re no longer here to care for him or her.

Therefore, as parents of special needs children, it’s important for us to understand our options when planning for our children’s financial future.

Most special needs planning begins with a look into whether a child needs and qualifies for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for support. SSI is a means-based program for people with disabilities and provides a limited monthly cash benefit of about $733 a month, the exact amount depending on the state and whether the beneficiary receives housing or income from other sources.

In and of itself, this payment may or may not mean much for a child’s financial future, but SSI eligibility also comes with a much more important benefit — access to Medicaid. For this reason alone many families, especially those with children who have major medical expenses, pursue SSI benefits despite the program’s severe income and asset limits. SSI can also be the ticket into vocational training and group housing services.

Once a child reaches age 18, she qualifies for SSI based on her own income and assets. In order to receive benefits, the child must meet the government’s disability standard, have less than $2,000 in assets and receive minimal income. Each dollar of unearned income (including any direct payments of cash to a beneficiary, along with additional reductions for in-kind payment for food and shelter) and every two dollars of earned income reduces a beneficiary’s base SSI award by one dollar.

If the SSI benefit reaches zero because of this reduction, SSI coverage ends. Despite these restrictions, an SSI beneficiary needs only a $1 award in order to retain her Medicaid benefits, so careful planning in this realm carries great rewards.

A child who became disabled before reaching 22 years of age can also collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) based on a parent’s work record if either of his parents has worked enough quarters to collect Social Security and is already receiving Social Security benefits or has died. Under SSDI, the “adult disabled child” of the Social Security beneficiary receives a monthly benefit check, as long as he doesn’t perform substantial work, defined as earning more than $1,090 a month. After receiving SSDI for two years, the adult disabled child also begins to receive Medicare, a substantial benefit.

Often, adults who became disabled as children receive SSI benefits until their parents retire, at which point they transition to SSDI, which is usually preferred both because it may offer a higher monthly benefit and because the beneficiary no longer needs to be concerned about SSI’s strict rules on other sources of income and savings. On the other hand, the switch to SSDI can be problematic if it means that the adult child loses eligibility for Medicaid or other programs.

If a child has more than $2,000 in assets when he reaches age 18, rendering him ineligible for SSI, a parent, grandparent or court has the power to create a special trust, known as a “(d)(4)(A) ” or “first-party supplemental needs” trust to hold his savings. Any assets held by the trust do not count against the $2,000 asset limit for SSI, allowing him to qualify.

One requirement of such trusts is that when the beneficiary dies, any funds remaining in the trust must be used to reimburse the state for medical care the trust beneficiary received during his life. Because of this payback provision, planners often encourage trustees to pay for a child’s supplemental needs from a (d)(4)(A) trust before using other assets, in order to limit the state’s collection later on.

Finally, many families create trusts known as “third-party” supplemental needs trusts in addition to (d)(4)(A) trusts.  As long as families fund these trusts with their own assets (never with their child’s funds) and give the trustee complete discretion to distribute the funds for a beneficiary’s care, the funds held in the trust will not count as the child’s assets. Furthermore, these trusts do not have to contain a payback provision, allowing families to place significant amounts of money into the trust without worrying that the government will receive a large portion later on. The trusts can then provide a child with special needs with services and care he may not receive from other sources throughout his life.

You don’t want to wait to plan for your child’s transition out of childhood. We can help you start planning for the future today. Contact DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678-325-3872.

Special Needs Trusts & Estate Plans – When’s The Right Time?

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As a parent or guardian of a child or adult with special needs, one of our main concerns is what will happen to our loved ones when we pass? Who will take care of them? Will they have enough money? Will they be OK?

And while most of us try NOT think about dying, it’s an important step in ensuring that our loved ones will be protected and cared for upon our passing. Putting into place a special needs trust is something we can do to help ensure that our child or adult ward will be well cared for and have a high quality of life.

Too many times we’ve seen families devastated by the sudden loss of parents or guardians. Now is the time to plan and put into place a legal plan that will help protect your loved ones and their government benefits.

Eligibility for many government benefits are determined based on the resources your child or adult ward holds in their name. If they have too many resources, even by just one dollar, they may not qualify for, or may even lose, benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Even if your child or ward does not currently receive government assistance, he or she may need it in the future. A special needs trust is a way to protect their current resources and future benefits. Through a special needs trust you can leave assets to your child or ward without negatively impacting his or her government benefits.

Government benefits only cover basics such as food, clothing and shelter. Through a special needs trust, a designated trustee for your loved one will be able to provide your child or adult ward with access to things such as:

  • a personal care attendant
  • out of pocket medical and dental expenses
  • vacations
  • home furnishings
  • vehicles
  • hobbies
  • and education.

Jeyaram & Associates has extensive personal and legal experience with setting up special needs trusts and estate plans. Please contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678.325.3872