Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How Do I Provide for My Special Needs Child?

For parents who have a special needs child, it is so important to have an appropriate and well thought out estate plan in place. Parents may worry about planning for their child’s future and want to ensure that their child is cared for throughout the rest of his or her life, even when the parent has passed. Having an estate plan in place will give parents peace of mind about their child’s future. If a child receives government benefits such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), inheriting money directly can cause problems with maintaining eligibility. Families have some options with their estate plan, protecting their child’s eligibility to receive government benefits.

Government benefits generally provide only basic support and parents may want to provide their child with some extra support. In order to provide their child with extra support while keeping their child eligible for government benefits, some parents may want to establish a special needs or supplemental needs trust for the benefit of their child, which can be funded during the parent’s lifetime or at their death. If properly drafted, this type of trust will not jeopardize eligibility for government benefits and can provide the child with an enhanced quality of life by having the trustee pay for extra things. Parents may also want to consider joining a pooled special needs trust, where the funds of each beneficiary of the trust are placed in an individual account and the assets from all of the individual accounts are “pooled” together and invested and managed by a trust company. A pooled trust is managed by a non-profit organization and with this type of arrangement, families do not have to find a trustee who is willing and capable to manage the trust for their child, unlike the special needs or supplemental needs trust.

Parents should discuss the future with family members and friends and have a plan in place for their child’s future care, when mom, dad, a sibling or other family member is no longer available or able to care for the special needs child. Parents also need to take care of their own future, and have a Will, power of attorney, and advance medical directive for themselves. Planning for the future may seem overwhelming, but having a good plan in place can provide peace of mind.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Friday, September 16, 2016

Could Mom or Dad Qualify for VA Pension Benefits?

It is possible to receive various need-based pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and it could be a good idea to explore these benefit options fully if you think mom or dad may be eligible. A qualified Veteran (together with any spouse) or a surviving spouse who has low income and few assets can apply for non-service connected disability VA Pension benefits. The VA pension program provides monthly benefit payments to certain wartime Veterans who demonstrate financial need, and their survivors. The VA offers both a Veterans Pension and a Survivors Pension, which are tax-free monetary benefits payable to low-income wartime Veterans or low-income surviving spouses and/or unmarried children of a deceased Veteran who served during wartime. To be an eligible wartime Veteran, the service member must be discharged under other than dishonorable conditions and served 90 days or more of active military service with at least 1 day during a period of war (with different requirements for those Veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980).

There are three different levels of VA Pension that a Veteran and survivor may be eligible to receive. The first is the Veterans Pension, which provides supplemental income and is a needs-based program for low-income Veterans and survivors. The second pension available is the Housebound Pension, which provides an increased monthly pension amount when a Veteran or survivor is housebound as defined by the VA and certified by their doctor. The third pension available, and one that may be the most familiar, is the Aid & Attendance Pension. The Aid & Attendance pension increases the monthly pension if the applicant needs help with at least 2-3 activities of daily living and would normally require a protected environment, and certified by their doctor.
The VA Pension is a great program to explore, however, it is important to recognize that as far as VA benefits are concerned, the law is complex and currently is unsettled due to changes that have been proposed by the regulators and could change at any time.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Welcome Back to School!

It’s that time of year again when the kids go back to school or even start a new school. While the kids may have been nervous and sad that summer is over, hopefully they were excited to start school and see their friends and make new friends. We hope that everyone had a safe and enjoyable first day back to school!