Affordable Care Act Likely to Improve Situations of People with Disabilities
July 23, 2012
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a hot topic lately, and of great concern to people of all walks of life; but people with disabilities, or who rely on government benefits to help them pay for health care and living expenses, have even more at stake in the game and more reason to be concerned. It is this population of elderly or disabled individuals who, according to this recent article in Forbes, have had to (in some states) limit their income in order to continue receiving affordable health insurance through federally funded programs. But hopefully, the ACA is about to change all that.
“The most obvious and most significant health industry reform important to [elderly or disabled individuals] is the elimination of pre‐existing conditions as a bar to purchasing private health insurance. However, ACA also eliminates annual or lifetime caps, rescission of insurance policies, non‐renewability, and higher premium costs for persons with pre‐existing conditions.”
Before the passage of the ACA many disabled persons couldn’t qualify for health insurance from private insurers, leaving public programs such as Medicaid as their only option. The problem with relying on Medicaid is that once your income reaches a certain amount you no longer qualify. For disabled persons with “pre-existing conditions,” losing Medicaid benefits while still unable to qualify for private insurance was equal to disaster, and resulted in many people self-limiting their income.
Now, however, private insurance companies will no longer be able to bar individuals with pre-existing conditions. Thankfully, this should “open the door to many more people to confidently join the workforce, knowing they will not do so at the cost of having medical needs met.”
If you or a loved one has a special needs trust, or would like to know how the ACA may affect your government provided health insurance or benefits, please contact our office.
Benefit Your Loved Ones by Bringing Life to Your Estate Plan
February 22, 2012
We often tell our clients that there is far more to a legacy than money. A will and a trust are essential documents to have—but there’s more to protecting your loved ones than just those documents. With these important documents (plus the lesser-known but just as important ancillary documents) you’ve provided for your loved ones financially, but what about emotionally? What happens during those difficult months when your dependents must learn to live without you? You’ve worked hard to build a full, comfortable and happy life for your loved ones; preserving (as much as possible) the comfort and stability of that life is at least as important as preserving your financial estate.
One of the best ways to do this is with a memorandum of intent. A memorandum of intent is a letter that you write to the guardians of your children, or to the caretaker of your special needs relative or elderly parent. A memorandum of intent is a document that details the crucial minutia of your daily life. In it you can express the things that might be considered too small, or the things that change too frequently, to include in your trust—but are essential to the daily fabric of your life. This includes details such as:
* An overview of daily schedule and activities
* Names and phone numbers of friends
* Your family’s religious beliefs (if applicable)
* Unique holidays and traditions celebrated by your family
* Name and phone number for primary physician (or other health-care providers)
* Favorite foods, comfort objects, books, etc.
* And much more.
These things may all seem small right now, but it is these comfortable people, places and activities that will help your family through a difficult transition should tragedy strike. You can’t be sure that you will always be there to provide comfort and care for your loved ones, but you can ensure you do your best for them now, to ease their suffering during difficult times later.
Estate Planning with a Chronic or Terminal Disease
November 4, 2011
We mention often on our blog that each family will have unique circumstances and unique estate planning needs—this is especially true of families in which one member has a chronic or terminal disease such as cancer, diabetes, or, as mentioned in this article in Forbes, multiple sclerosis.
For most people, the documents in their estate plan constitute a “someday” or a “what if” scenario, but for those people with chronic or terminal diseases the documents in their estate plan address issues that are much more immediate and certain. For this reason, the advice in the article mentioned above focuses mainly on doing whatever you can to take control of your estate planning, health care, and financial affairs right now. Some of the suggestions include:
* Finding financial and estate advisors who are comfortable discussing your situation, and can help you customize your plans to fit your needs.
* Customizing your estate planning documents, including your will, trust, or living will.
* Signing important forms right now, while you still can.
* Making use of your temporary or limited powers options in your healthcare and financial documents, giving your chosen agents the limited power while you are temporarily incapacitated to “pay your bills and file your taxes but not sell your house or make gifts of your assets.”
Living with a chronic or terminal disease is a unique situation and requires unique planning and preparation—planning that is best done right away, for the good of your family and for yourself. If you have questions about estate planning with a chronic or terminal disease please don’t hesitate to contact our office—we can help.
Leaving an Inheritance to a Special Needs Child
September 7, 2011
If you have a child with special needs, planning your estate takes on a whole new dimension; especially, as this article in Forbes points out, now that “state and local governments are tightening income restrictions for medical benefits and supportive services, which are typically paid for by Social Security and Medicaid. Those services are tough to find—or afford—in the private sector for many adults with disabilities so severe that they can’t live alone… As a result, it’s increasingly important to structure an inheritance in a way that won’t disqualify a child for such benefits down the road.”
Structuring an estate plan with a special needs child as a beneficiary takes special consideration. Because a direct inheritance could disrupt that child’s public benefits, “some parents simply leave another child all their assets in their will. If there are three children, they might leave two-thirds to the child who lives closest to the one with special needs.”
Unfortunately this particular strategy is rife with possible dangers. The heir may be tempted to use his special needs sibling’s money for his own purposes, or could decide he’s simply tired of being a caretaker. Even worse, the heir could pass away unexpectedly, in which case the entire inheritance would go to the heir’s spouse or children, with nothing left for the special needs child.
The article gives a number of suggestions for safe and reliable ways to leave your special needs child an inheritance, including leaving property to your child in a Qualified Personal Residence Trust, setting up a housing collective, and the tried-and-true option of a Special Needs Trust. But we know that each family is going to have different needs and goals, and there isn’t one solution that will work across the board.
If you have a special needs child your very best course of action is to contact a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to help you understand your options and choose the one that will best protect your child.
How a Special Needs Trust Can Help Your Child
February 25, 2011
You know how important it is to protect your family with an estate plan, but if you have a child with special needs then taking steps to protect them if something should happen to you is essential. Unfortunately, for families which include special needs children, knowing exactly the best way to protect your child(ren) isn’t always so clear. As Joe Perez, the widowed father of 14 year old Danny, and the subject of this article on the ABC News website found out, it’s not as simple as leaving your child with a good guardian and decent inheritance—special needs children need a little more planning than that.
You know what you want for your child, you want him to live as contentedly as possible, with loving guardians and engaged in activities which will bring pleasure and peace. But how can this dream be achieved on the limited assets that Medicaid recipients are allowed to have without losing their government benefits? How can responsible parents safely leave an inheritance to their special needs child? For many parents, part of the answer to that question is having a special needs trust.
Unfortunately, not all parents are aware of the benefits of a special needs trust, or how easy it can be to create one—with the right help. A special needs trust is the vessel that will hold your child’s inheritance (from you or from another source) without disrupting that child’s government benefits. It gives your child the funds they need beyond the basic living expenses provided by SSI or Medicaid.
If your family could benefit from a special needs trust, please contact our office for more information. A special needs trust is not the kind of document that can be found in a software package or created from a standard trust template. The needs of your child are unique, and should be addressed as such.
Planning for the Future is Essential for Special Needs Families
September 17, 2010
If you have a special needs child, parent, or sibling then you know that planning for the future can be overwhelming under the best of circumstances; which is why so many parents and caretakers tend to live for today, while planning for tomorrow is always put off until… well, until tomorrow. But if planning and caring for your loved one is this difficult for you, can you imagine how difficult it would be for a friend or guardian if something were to happen to you? For this reason, the importance of planning for the care of your special needs loved one cannot be overstated.
Getting started with your planning can feel like climbing Mt. Everest at first, especially if you’re trying to navigate through government programs and federal financial aid. But as overwhelming as it can be in the beginning, with the right advisors the planning process can and should be a relieving and beneficial experience for all. The following article from CNN Money (and posted courtesy of the Special Needs Alliance) gives a few tips on how—and why—to begin planning for your special needs loved one.
If you would like to have a secure plan for the future but aren’t sure where to begin, perhaps the best way to start is to find an attorney in your area who specializes in Special Needs planning. The laws and requirements for government aid will vary from state to state, but more importantly, there is no substitute for a knowledgeable expert who will listen to your family’s unique story and help you blaze securely into the future.
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Guardian for Your Child
April 16, 2010
Choosing a guardian for your children is one of the most difficult things you may ever have to do as a parent, and if you have a special needs child the task is even more difficult. From parenting style to living situation to your gut feeling about this person’s ability to love your child as well as you do—there are endless things to consider before you ask the big question.
In honor of Autism Awareness Month, MassMutual has published a list of 10 questions for parents to ask themselves when choosing a guardian for their child with autism or special needs.
Although the list is supposed to be for parents of children with special needs, the questions are a helpful road map for any parent, not just parents of special needs children. MassMutual’s ten questions cover issues such as considering how close the person you are considering as guardian currently lives to your child, whether he or she is financially able to assume the responsibility of guardian, and whether you should name a second or third person or couple as backup guardians. These are important questions that all parents should ask themselves before choosing a guardian.
Having children means always planning ahead and thinking about the future, even as you try to live in the present and appreciate the small moments in every day. Nominating a guardian for your children makes it that much easier to focus on the here and now, because in the back of your mind you’ll know that your children will be protected if something happens to you. Let our firm help you achieve that peace of mind.
Filling in the Blanks of Your Estate Plan
March 3, 2010
Do feel like there’s more to your children’s inheritance than money? Does your will or trust seem good but… not quite enough?
You’re right. A will and a trust are essential documents to have—especially if you have minor children—but there’s more to protecting your children than those documents. With those documents (plus a nomination of guardian, of course) you’ve provided for your children financially, but what about emotionally? After all, you’ve built a full life for your family and children, one in which they are comfortable and happy. Preserving (as much as possible) the comfort and stability of that life is at least as important as preserving your financial estate.
One of the best ways to do this is with a document called a memorandum of intent. A memorandum of intent is a letter that you write to the guardians of your children. This is a document that details the crucial minutia of your daily life. In it you can express the things that might be considered too small, or the things that change to frequently, to include in your trust—but are essential to the daily fabric of your life:
- After-school activities
- Names and phone numbers of your children’s “best friends”
- Your preferences for religious upbringing
- Unique holidays and traditions celebrated by your family
- Pediatrician name and phone number (or other health-care providers)
- Your discipline style and parenting resources you find helpful
- Your children’s favorite foods, favorite toys, comfort objects
These things may all seem small right now, but it is these comfortable people, places and activities that will help your children through a difficult transition should tragedy strike. You can’t be sure that you will always be there to guide your children into adulthood, but you can be sure they will always know your hopes and wishes for them.
(*A memorandum of intent is not necessarily just for parents of young children. Memorandums can be especially helpful if you have a special needs child or are the caretaker of an elderly parent. Some people have even chosen to leave memorandums of intent along with a pet trust to the caretakers of their pets.)