Estate planning is essential for anyone interested in passing their assets onto his or her loved ones. But for those with children with special needs such as physical or mental disabilities, estate planning can be an even more complex and fraught process, especially if your loved one receives Supplemental Security Income or SSI. Without the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, you could draw up a standard will and end up invalidating the federal benefits your loved one depends upon. However, with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, the process can be straightforward and allow you to relax in your golden years. If you have questions about special needs beneficiaries or any other area of estate planning, call experienced San Jose attorney Linda J. MacKay today at 408-379-9600.
Problems Occur When Estate Planning Intersects with SSI
If you have a loved one with a severe disability, you may intend to leave him or her a large part of your estate so that his or her needs are provided for after you die. Unfortunately, if a person who receives SSI receives a large inheritance, they will likely lose their SSI benefits temporarily or permanently, as someone on SSI cannot have more than $2000 in assets at any time. That is a ridiculously low threshold, and you are likely to transgress it with any funds you bequeath in your estate plan. Even if the loss of SSI is temporary, you likely know how complicated the process is to reestablish those benefits.
Long-Term Options for Loved Ones on SSI
For the reasons explained above, if you will your loved one even a moderate lump-sum in your will, he or she will likely lose SSI benefits. There is a reasonably straightforward way of avoiding that $2000 threshold, however, and an experienced estate planning attorney can draw up a “special needs” trust to achieve that goal. A special needs trust acts as an account that you permanently place your estate funds into. In turn, when you die the trust slowly pays out money to your beneficiary at a rate that never exceeds the $2000 threshold. By utilizing this tool, you can care for your loved one, leave them a significant inheritance, but not cut off the day-to-day expense money that SSI provides. This is a custom solution for the special needs beneficiary in your life—it pays them the money he or she needs without invalidating other important benefits.
If You are Worried About Loved Ones with Special Needs, Call Linda J. MacKay
Going through the estate planning process can be particularly stressful for individuals who have spent part or all of their life caring for a loved one with a disability. The fear is that if you fail to plan appropriately, he or she will not get the care they need. This fear is complicated by the fact that you can invalidate SSI eligibility by providing too much for your loved one. You do not need to experience this anxiety, however, as an experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate this process and achieved peace of mind. Going through the hard work of drafting out a complete, thoughtful special needs trust will allow you to spend your time enjoying your family member’s company, not worrying about them. Attorney MacKay has the experience to help you through these challenges and to guide you around pitfalls that snare people who try to handle these issues alone.