Providing for Special Needs Kids–Using Special Needs Trusts

As the mom or dad of a special needs child, your heart and hands are already full. With a Special Needs Trust, your child continues receiving government benefits and enjoys an enhanced life–with the trust funds paying for the extras including:

  • Paying you for providing care to your child
  • Paying for fun trips and activities for your child
  • Setting aside savings for your child’s future needs

To schedule an appointment with Travis Weaver, attorney, or Rick Weaver, attorney, about creating a Special Needs Trust, call 817-638-9016. To learn more about this essential legal tool, check out our extensive Q & A below: 

Why is a Special Needs Trust essential?

If you leave money or property directly to your special needs child, either in a will or through intestacy (dying without a will), the inheritance your child receives will endanger his or her ability to receive benefits under government programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

A Special Needs Trust, also known as a Supplemental Needs Trust, is created to hold cash or property for your special needs child. Funds from the trust can be used to help your special needs child–yet still allow the child to receive government benefits like Medicaid or SSI. As described earlier, if the child owns these assets outright, he or she may not qualify for government benefits. 

Funds from the Special Needs Trust may also be used to pay yourself and other family members for caregiving duties. This helps make up for a parent’s lost income. Since many special needs children require around-the-clock care, making it impossible for a parent to hold a job, this benefit may help relieve financial stress and ensure your child receives the best possible care–from you.  

What does my special needs child gain with a Special Needs Trust? 

A properly drafted and executed Special Needs Trust shelters assets for a special needs child or other disabled person, while allowing the child to benefit from government programs offering support to disabled individuals. 

Your special needs child may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD), Medicare and Medicaid. Consider this brief summary about qualifying for these programs:

  • SSI is a needs-based program available if certain income and resource limitations are met.
  • In most states including Texas, people receiving SSI are automatically entitled to Medicaid.
  • To qualify for SSI and Medicaid, a single person must own less than $2,000 of countable assets.
  • Those with countable assets greater than $2,000 can lose their eligibility for benefits. 

Won’t any trust work? Unfortunately, no. 

Here’s why — support trusts (most common trusts are support trusts), which direct that funds be used for the health, welfare, and support of a beneficiary like a special needs child, will usually disqualify a the child from receiving government benefits. This is because the assets in a support trust are counted as the child’s resources.

A Special Needs Trust allows a parent (the trustee) to use trust funds to add to, not replace, the government benefits for which your special needs child qualifies.

Here’s how it works: 

  • To maintain eligibility for needs-based support, your special needs child (the beneficiary) cannot have control over the assets in the Special Needs Trust.
  • Your special needs child cannot manage the assets, have the right to demand distributions of income or property from the trust, name the Trustee or change the terms of the Special Needs Trust.
  • The use of the Special Needs Trust’s assets for the benefit of a special needs child is determined by the parent (Trustee).
  • Because your special needs child (the beneficiary) does not have a claim to the assets in the trust, this means the trust assets are not countable resources and do not affect the special needs child’s eligibility for benefits.
  • As a result, the special needs child continues receiving government benefits, while still enjoying the benefits of the funds or property in the trust–for things like travel, entertainment, and other  supplemental needs that may greatly enhance your child’s quality of life. 

Who can serve as a trustee of a Special Needs Trust? 

  • The Trustee can be a parent, family member, friend, or private professional trustee.
  • In the case of a self-settled special needs trust, the person making the gift to create the trust can also serve as trustee. A self-settled special needs trust requires a payback provision for any governmental benefits received. All other special needs trusts do not require such payback provisions. 

Want to schedule an appointment to talk with us about setting up a special needs trust? Call Travis Weaver, attorney, or Rick Weaver, attorney, today at 817.638.9016. 

Medicaid Gifts and Trusts

How Do Assets and Trusts Impact Medicaid Eligibility?

Medicaid eligibility requires minimal personal assets.

Your health care needs will increase as you age.

That is a given.

With this increase, your health care bills will also increase.

That is a given.

Some people turn to Medicaid for financial assistance.

That is not such a given.

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is a government program managed by states to help with medical and long-term care costs.

It is needs-based, meaning individuals must qualify financially for eligibility.

In order to prevent individuals from merely making transfers of their property, either outright or in trust, to qualify for Medicaid, there is a penalty period imposed on transfers made within five years of applying for Medicaid. 

If an individual establishes a trust using some of his or her own funds, where the individual is the sole beneficiary or one beneficiary in a pool of beneficiaries, the trust may be considered a resource for Medicaid purposes.

This is particularly true if the trust can be revoked — a revocable trust– and the assets can be pulled back into the name of the Medicaid applicant, she said.

Third Party Trust

If the trust is created by a third party, with third party funds, for the benefit of the Medicaid applicant, then the answer would depend on the specific terms of the trust and whether or not the settlor — the person who created the trust — is the spouse of the Medicaid applicant.

That’s because income and asset limitations are imposed on the community spouse in order for the applicant spouse to qualify for Medicaid.

The state may also have the right of recovery against the estate of a deceased Medicaid recipient for Medicaid benefits paid to such individual during his or her lifetime. Always use a ladybird deed or a transfer on death deed for real property.

For starters, you cannot simply transfer (gift) assets to your loved ones to become eligible.

In fact, the transfers would need to occur more than five years before the Medicaid application.

Work with an experienced elder law attorney to determine if Medicaid is a viable option for you.

Contact us at 817.638.9016 

Skating On Thin Ice – Daughter May Waste Inheritance

Protecting your child once meant insisting on a sweater, warm hat, and gloves. In the cold reality of adult life, your adult child may make poor financial choices and endure major slips and falls.

Check out a client’s questions and our response on providing income to an adult child after you’ve skated away permanently:   

Dear Weaver Firm,

I am in my 70’s and have two children from a previous marriage of five years. One has a son and the other has two daughters.

My daughter is married and values material things far more important than financial security. She and her husband stay in debt, which has contributed to a rocky relationship for the past 15 years. I don’t know if it will last or not, especially when my granddaughter leaves home in just a few years.

More than likely, there will be some money left when my current husband and I are gone. Is there a way to assure that whatever she might be left would be protected from her wasting it away and instead, possibly contribute to her old age? We have individual wills but wondered if a trust of some sort or other type of document would be better? 

What would be the best way to structure this for both of my children and grandchildren and also, my husband’s one family member that he wants to leave something to? My current husband and I have been together for the last 35 years and live in Texas.

-Concerned Client

Dear Client,

Your question has two parts: Do you split your estate equally? And, how do you split your estate?

The first one is easy: Yes. You want to leave your children something, but you don’t want to leave them with resentments and questions. You want to leave this world in a swift, graceful manner that leaves people with a good feeling — the inheritance equivalent of the triple axel from the 2018 Winter Olympics: three equal, generously timed moves, and then you’re off the proverbial ice. Except in your case, for good.

As to your second question. I suggest an irrevocable trust, outlining ways in which your inheritance should be spent. This has two advantages. Your son has a financially responsible life, so he will be glad with any bequest and, I’m sure, will be heartened to know there is money set aside for home improvements or his children’s education. Your daughter, while not so financially responsible or astute, gets the same deal. Only in her case, you are protecting her from herself and protecting the interests of your granddaughter.

You don’t say what relationship your husband’s relative has to him, but if it’s not a sibling, you may consider leaving him/her a smaller amount than the money you leave the rest of your family. You may want to discuss the tax implications of such a trust with a financial adviser when you have decided on your stipulations and the amounts.

You want to appoint someone who has no conflict of interest whether that person is a professional trustee — that is, a bank or trust company — or not. You need to depend on that person to act in a competent and trustworthy manner.

This Trust can be contained in your Will (testamentary trust) or a standalone document. 

Planning for blended family is crucial to avoid hard feelings and litigation down the road. We’re glad to visit with you about your options and concern for your adult children. Call 817-638-9016 to schedule an appointment with attorneys, Travis Weaver or Rick Weaver. At Weaver Firm, we understand your concerns. Let us help protect your family and their future.

817.638.9016 or RWeaver@www.weaverlegal.net

5 Tips for Preventing Blended Family Legal Problems

Divorce and remarriage are more common than ever today. Blended families require extra attention from estate planning attorneys, but this extra attention to detail is crucial to avoiding costly legal fees for  probate litigation and more. 

Prenuptial Agreements are Your Friends

Two people blending a family can protect their goals and financial resources by entering into a prenuptial agreement. While a prenup may not be necessary for couples entering a first marriage, for a second marriage or any more after that there are all sorts of complex issues that may make such an agreement not only useful but necessary.

  1. Before getting married, people should discuss estate issues with their new intended spouse;
  2. A prenup ensures that both parties enter into the relationship with a clear understanding of assets and intentions;
  3. Both sides have a chance to discuss this plan with an attorney. 

Separate Checking & Savings Accounts

We encourage newly married couples to clarify any ground rules up front regarding “yours,” “mine,” and “ours” in order to avoid confusion. Understanding each other’s finances is key to avoiding fights down the road. Many people will start out having separate checking and savings accounts, primarily using them to pay for personal expenses, including those for children from a previous marriage. Don’t combine your accounts before speaking to an attorney!

If you choose to maintain a joint account for ongoing expenses as a couple, it’s important to discuss how much each spouse is going to contribute monthly – an equal amount or a percentage. 

Update End-of-Life Medical Documents 

Who gets to make end-of-life decisions? If people don’t put their wishes in writing, their loved ones can be left with legal disputes and family fights at one of the most difficult times in their lives.

Talk with your future spouse about this issue.

Children from a previous marriage may have very different ideas about who should make decisions about health care and what decisions should occur. Without specifying those wishes in a living will, also called an advanced healthcare directive, you are looking at thousands in potential litigation.

Update Your Will & Other Documents

In our experience, the ugliest family disputes that occur after someone passes away are not about money but possessions with sentimental value. Even the smallest item can have a significant emotional value, and squabbles over these belongings can cause rifts that are difficult to heal. Discuss your intentions with your family BEFORE you pass away.

Trusts should be as specific as possible about what each beneficiary is to receive. Once again, add this to your discussion.

For those who wish to leave assets to stepchildren, it’s important to include those directives in the trust or will. Stepchildren are not generally considered legal heirs, and they won’t inherit anything without being named in these documents. This is a rue awakening to those who don’t receive an inheritance when expected.

Estate plans can also become complex when a person wants to provide for his or her surviving spouse and still give the children access to inheritances as soon as possible.

For people with children by a previous marriage, a trust can be a good way to protect their inheritance. It can also be used to help ensure that any previous spouses or step-children who were part of that marriage are not inadvertently disinherited by the new relationship.

Prevent Legal Issues For Your Blended Family – Talk To Professionals

Experienced estate planning attorneys understand the unique challenges facing blended families. If you need to discuss the use of trusts or other asset protection strategies, please contact our office. We encourage people to have discussions and to communicate clearly with loved ones about their final goal: a happily blended family that remains a family after the parents have passed.

Avoid litigation. Plan Ahead. I’m glad to help you with questions about preventing legal problems for your blended family. Give me a call at the Weaver Firm – Attorneys at 817-683-9016 or visit WeaverLegal.net to learn more about our services. 

travis-r-weaver

Travis Weaver, Attorney

Nursing Home vs. Assisted Living: Who They Help

group photo canoeing down riverLawyers with experience in nursing home qualification, including those at the Weaver Firm, provide assistance in creating an advanced plan to get care you require as you get older or if you experience illnesses or injuries that make you unable to care for yourself any longer.  

As you experience age-related illness, there is a substantial chance you will some day require care in an institutional care environment. In fact, as Wall Street Journal explains, more than 70 percent of people who reach the age of 65 will require nursing home care at some point in the future.  

Start planning now. Medicaid has a five year loopback period for gifts. VA Aid and Attendance has NO LOOKBACK period as of this post, but changes are coming.

An attorney can help you to understand your options for nursing home care or other types of care

In particular, you should consider the differences between nursing homes and assisted living facilities so you can make a fully informed choice regarding which environment is right for you.

Assisted living vs. nursing home long-term care

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes both provide an option for seniors who can no longer live independently. But, as the New York Times explains, there are important differences:

  • Assisted living facilities generally provide a more home-like environment while nursing homes have a more institutional or hospital-like feel.  
  • Assisted living facilities involve seniors living more independently in their own rooms or their own apartments
  • Nursing homes generally provide semi-private or private rooms with much less privacy and autonomy than assisted living facilities offer.
  • Assisted living facility may offer housekeeping services, meals, activities, and some help getting medical care, assisted living facilities typically do not provide the same level of supportive services that a nursing home does. 

The New York Times also indicates that nursing homes are more heavily regulated than assisted living facilities.

Who pays for nursing home or other long-term care? 

  • Medicaid will cover the costs of nursing home care for eligible seniors who can qualify for means-tested benefits.
  • Assisted living facilities are often not covered by Medicaid or any other kind of insurance policy.
  • Assisted living facilities ARE covered by VA aid and attendance if you or your spouse was a veteran during time of war.
  • Some facilities have an assisted living section and a nursing home care section for seniors who are attracted to the idea of assisted living but who may need nursing home care in the future.

Getting help from nursing home lawyers

Because the costs of care are expensive and are not covered by Medicare or by most private insurance, our attorneys at the Weaver Firm provide assistance with the creation of a Medicaid or VA Aid and Attendance plan so you can protect assets while getting Medicaid or VA to cover the costs of your care.

Call 817-638-9016 today to schedule a meeting with Weaver Firm attorneys to review your options for long-term care.

Estate Planning for Millennials

 

This is an article adapted from the personal finance website, Nerdwallet.

As a Millennial myself, this article really touches close to home. Everyone needs an Estate Plan and many Millennials are starting families, creating businesses, investing in real estate, etc.

Ask people to write down a list of their plans and it’s likely to be chock-full of career accomplishments and vacation experiences. Graduating, getting a great job, getting married, starting a family, buying a home, and traveling are likely to be high on the list.

Odds are Estate Planning isn’t high on the list.

It’s not a surprise that people in their 20s and 30s wouldn’t have estate planning at the top of their mind.

The creation of legal documents such as living wills, last wills and testaments, powers of attorney for medical and financial well-being, and potential trusts is a foreign concept to many people, especially those who aren’t married or don’t have children.

Many people assume you don’t need to work on those plans until your 50s or 60s.

The truth is . . . planning now saves you time and money later on.

The Millennial view of money

Many Millennials have embarked on parenthood, care giving and other stressful responsibilities. But they tend to view money from an entirely different perspective from preceding generations. Growing up in the shadow of the recession and under the weight of sometimes crippling student loan debt, many Millennials are responsible with their finances, contrary to sky-is-falling reports. As we juggle student loans, young family expenses, and startup or freelancing jobs, our estate plan changes and the need for a plan grows.

Being good with money, though, isn’t enough. Part of being fiscally responsible is planning for the long-term. More than 60% of Americans don’t have a will, according to a 2015 Harris Poll

Most Americans don’t have long-term care insurance. Good news for Millennials, the premiums are cheap now.

The benefits of estate planning

No matter where you are in your financial life, you need an estate plan. 

Will. Medical Power of Attorney, Financial Power of Attorney, Physician’s Directive.

Those are the big four.

For those with children, a good estate plan lets you appoint a guardian for your children should something ever happen to you.

 

Come see us with your estate planning questions. 817.638.9016.

Founding Fathers had Wills and So Should You

Ever wondered what a founding father’s Last Will and Testament looked like? Probably a lot like yours. Ben Franklin provides an excellent look into several issues regarding what you leave and to whom.

Sam Moak, an attorney in South, Texas, has a great breakdown of Ben Franklin’s Will. Here are some of the highlights.

Franklin gave his son William all of his property in Nova Scotia “to hold to him, his heirs and designs forever.” William is what we consider a primary beneficiary because he received the property outright from the will. Much like you might leave your home to your children or to their children, Ben Franklin kept his property in his bloodline.

Franklin owned three homes on Market Street in Philadelphia, other property within Philadelphia and pasture land outside the city. These are probably worth a pretty penny nowadays. Ben transferred the right to use that property together with his “silver plate, pictures and household goods” to his daughter Sarah Bache and her husband Richard Bache for use “during their natural lives.” 

This gift created a life estate. You may have a home or other real property and desire for a particular person to use that property for his or her lifetime. A life estate is an excellent way to give a person life use of property. Clients often use this type of gift to ensure a piece of property remains in the family for multiple generations. Children can’t sell the property, but can live in the home forever. Think a family ranch for a Texas specific example.

If you create a life estate for a person, then you may also designate a person or perhaps a charitable organization to own the property after your life tenant passes away. Make sure to visit our site for an upcoming article about charitable giving and how it might be a great idea for you.

Ben Franklin’s intent was to transfer property to his daughter and son-in-law for life, with the remainder to his grandchildren. But what if one of the grandchildren were to pass away prior to the demise of both parents? Franklin indicated that if one of the grandchildren were “to die under age, and without issue,” that share would be “equally divided among the survivors.” This is an example of a contingent beneficiary.

A contingent beneficiary is the person who will receive the property if the first person is not living at the time of the transfer. For example, you may wish to give a gift through your Will to a brother or sister. But if he or she passes away before you do, then it is important to select another person to receive the property. We often see DIY Wills where a client names a primary beneficiary but fails to name a successor beneficiary. 

Franklin also realized some of his grandchildren might be young if and when their parents passed away. Franklin stated in his Will that some of them are “under age” and “may not have capacity” to manage the property. Therefore, he ordered the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to select “three honest, intelligent, impartial men” to manage the property. 

If your estate plan includes young children, then you will want to create a trust to manage property for the benefit of the children. The trust should work to provide a distribution of income and, if needed, principal from the trust to the child until the recipient reaches an age you designate for distribution of the assets. In Texas, children under eighteen (18) cannot inherit property outright. Instead of going through the expensive and time consuming process of petitioning the Court (not the Supreme Court in this case, but a Probate court) to create a Trust, consider having an attorney draft this trust as part of your Last Will and Testament.

If you don’t have a Will, don’t panic. Wills are simple to draft and easy for attorneys to set up. Over 60 percent of people pass away without Wills. Your property will eventually get to your heirs-at-law, but the process is more expensive and time-consuming.

Come see us for an Estate Planning meeting right away! 817.638.9016.

What Happens to Your IRA When You Die?

Check out this great article about the different ways your IRA benefits can pass at your death. This article goes into some planning details, but here is a brief summary of the author’s most important points:

  1. Talk to your attorney or CPA about any Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) for the current year. If the beneficiary was over age seventy (70), this is more than likely the case.

  2. Make sure your beneficiaries are up to date. Often we see former spouses or deceased individuals listed as beneficiaries. If these beneficiaries are not updated, you may leave money to someone you don’t even know.

  3. Listing a Trust as a beneficiary can be helpful is done correctly. You can stretch out distributions from your IRA for years. Consult an attorney or CPA about the proper way to set up your IRA Trust as mistakes in planning are common.

For all of these issues and more, set up an appointment with the Weaver Firm Attorneys at 817.638.9016 or at TWeaver@www.weaverlegal.net

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