Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program controlled by the Social Security Administration. It generally provides benefits only to disabled individuals who have little or no resources of their own. While the financial benefits of SSI are not large, the medical benefits are tremendous. SSI eligibility brings with it Medicaid entitlement and entitlement to a number of social service programs that can be of tremendous benefits to an adult with disabilities.
Just the same, you may hope to set up a fund either before your death or as part of your estate to benefit your adult child with disabilities. It's possible to do this without endangering your adult child's SSI benefits — but only if you do it correctly. Here's what you need to know.
1. You need help from an experienced attorney.
A properly drafted special needs trust is a must, so don't try to create this without experienced assistance from an experienced attorney. The rules are quite complicated in regards to what will and will not affect your adult child's SSI benefits. For example, one primary rule is that the trust cannot be revocable — otherwise, its full amount is considered a resource to the beneficiary.
2. You need to put some thought into who will manage the trust after you are gone.
As long as you are living, you can manage the trust on your child's behalf. Eventually, however, you will need someone to take over that responsibility. Since the goal of the trust is to make your disabled child's life more comfortable, you want to pick someone as your successor trustee who both knows your child and cares about his or her needs. Another adult child or a close relative, like a trusted niece or nephew, would be appropriate.
3. Take the time to make sure you and your successor trustee understand how to use the trust.
One of the biggest problems people run into with special needs trusts is how to disburse the funds without getting into a problem with SSI. Under no circumstances can you hand the beneficiary cash, even if you know that he or she will spend it directly on something needed. The moment that an SSI beneficiary has cash (or gift cards), that becomes income which will reduce his or her benefit amount.
Paying for the beneficiary's housing is also complicated. If you pay the landlord directly, the beneficiary can lose one-third of his or her SSI payment. While that might be acceptable under certain circumstances, it's often better to use the funds in the trust to pay for things that don't affect the SSI payment but will enrich the beneficiary's life. For example, the trust fund can be used to pay for furniture, electronics, hobby items, educational classes, therapy, trips, and other similar items.
For more information on special needs planning, talk to an attorney who works at an organization like Life's Plan Inc today.
Hello, I'm Phillip Kerr and I just love the legal profession and courtroom drama. Have you ever watched judge shows on TV? I know that these shows are not an accurate representation of the courtroom, but there is something you may have noticed. Some individuals come into the courtroom well-dressed, articulate, respectful and with the knowledge and documents necessary to support a case, while others come unprepared, slovenly dressed and appear as if they do not have a care in the world. How you present yourself and the knowledge that you have of the law will have an impact on how you are treated, even if you have legal representation. This blog is designed to assist those who are going to trial in doing just that.