Friday, March 28, 2014

Time to redo our special needs trust

The last thing I want to do is plan our will. 
You may think I am dreading it due to its reminder that life is temporary. That's not it. You may think it is because it is an expense that messes with our budget and I see it as a possible vacation week out the window...but that's not it either. (although, now that I think of it, that is annoying!!) Mostly, I dread it because it makes my head spin. I am a visual or hands on learner. A whole lot of technical mumbo jumbo gives me an actual pain in my gut. I know that while we sit, and I attempt to look engaged, I will actually have eyes that glaze over, for which I will reprimand myself as I know this topic is crucial to the well being of our beloved kiddos!!

Fortunately I am married to someone who takes finances seriously. VERY seriously. I mean, he has me save EVERY receipt and bag them up by month...just in case. I just need to have the overall idea that a special needs trust is crucial to the girls' well being, and I mean ALL the girls' well being...both the typical and the ones with the disabilities. In general, I have come to understand the following:
If you want to leave money or property to a loved one with a disability, you must plan carefully. Otherwise, you could jeopardize your loved one's ability to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid benefits. By setting up a "special needs trust" in your will, you can avoid some of these problems.
Owning a house, a car, furnishings, and normal personal effects does not affect eligibility for SSI or Medicaid. But other assets, including cash in the bank, will disqualify your loved one from benefits. For example, if you leave your loved one $10,000 in cash, that gift would disqualify your loved one from receiving SSI or Medicaid.A way around losing eligibility for SSI or Medicaid is to create what's called a special needs or supplemental needs trust. Then, instead of leaving property directly to your loved one, you leave it to the special needs trust.
You also choose someone to serve as trustee, who will have complete discretion over the trust property and will be in charge of spending money on your loved one's behalf. Because your loved one will have no control over the money, SSI and Medicaid administrators will ignore the trust property for program eligibility purposes. The trust ends when it is no longer needed -- commonly, at the beneficiary's death or when the trust funds have all been spent. Find more HERE.

Now that our oldest are 21 and 18...and our original appointed guardians have like-wise gotten older(sorry), we decided to redo our original document. This comes up in topic with our circle of friends/parents of a disabled child on occasion. You know, our mom's night out dinner conversations really must be unlike ANY others in a restaurant.
Several have asked who we used and I want to share someone my hubby recently found, after hearing her speak:
Mrs. Steen co-authored many articles for the Legal Intelligencer, and speaks to non-profit groups and families of children and adults with special needs on a pro bono basis. Mrs. Steen serves on the Philadelphia Jewish Family Services Board of Directors for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Mrs. Steen also serves on the Advisory Team to Philadelphia's Venture Philanthropy Partnership, which is currently developing an all inclusive resources program for children and adults with special needs in Pennsylvania. 
The consult we had with her went well and while I may have zoned out for a moment, there were many practical moments where I was completely enthralled as she explained she would meet as often as yearly with our adult girls to explain the trust if they wanted clarity and holds annual activities with the families so that should something happen to us, she knows them and they know her. I like that. 

If you are looking for a consult in the greater Philadelphia area, I am simply passing this name along. Follow the link above. 

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