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First-party and third-party special needs trusts protect benefit eligibility

By Hook Law Center

Individuals with special needs often depend on government benefits in order to afford things that many of us take for granted — including health care, education, healthy food and a safe home. But when someone with special needs acquires significant assets for any reason, their eligibility for government benefits may be jeopardized. Special needs trusts hold these assets outside the ownership of those individuals, but allow the money to be spent on their behalf, thereby enriching their lives without endangering their eligibility for benefits.

A third-party special needs trust is the most common type. The trust is created by a third party, using that person’s assets, and names the special needs individual as the beneficiary. These assets are commonly transferred into the trust upon the death of the trust’s creator, or grantor, through a will, life insurance or beneficiary designation.

Less widely known, but equally important, are first-party special needs trusts. Such a trust is created by the special needs individual, using his or her own assets for his or her own benefit. These assets could be the result of a personal injury award, a divorce settlement, a life insurance policy or other circumstances.

In both cases, the trustee — the individual in charge of administering the trust — uses the funds within the trust to support the person with special needs. The rules governing the trust’s expenditures must be followed closely, as any improper use of the funds could endanger government benefits. But the rules do allow a wide variety of life-enriching purchases, including personal services, hobbies, luxury items and vacations.

There are many different varieties of trusts. The help of an experienced special needs attorney is very important in properly creating and administering a special needs trust.

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014. Filed under Medicaid.

Elder advocacy group urges Congress to help seniors in 2014

By Hook Law Center

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) recently released a list of five recommendations for Congress to help American seniors in 2014.

1. Strengthen the Older Americans Act (OAA).

The OAA provides funding for critical services for seniors living independently at home, including nutrition, disease prevention, transportation and caregiver support. NCOA claims that funding has not kept pace with inflation or with the growing number of seniors, and that it has been further cut by the federal budget sequester. NCOA suggests that the OAA is overdue for reauthorization and should be both reauthorized and strengthened.

2. Make the Medicare QI program permanent.

The Medicare Qualified Individual (QI) program covers Medicare Part B premiums for seniors with income levels of 120-135% of the poverty level, helping low-income seniors afford visits to their doctors. QI has expired and been temporarily extended by Congress each year for several years. NCOA recommends Congress make the program permanent.

3. Renew the Farm Bill.

Upon renewal, the Farm Bill may increase funding for food banks and nutritional programs for seniors. However, Congress is pursuing cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

4. Introduce long-term care legislation.

Medicare does not cover long-term care; private insurance is too expensive for many, and Medicaid forces seniors to spend or give away their life savings before qualifying. Recently, the Long-Term Care Commission issued a report with recommendations for improving the situation. NCOA calls for a bipartisan effort to introduce reform legislation that would provide affordable options for families and savings for Medicaid.

5. Pass immigration reform.

NCOA says 20-23% of direct care workers (such as nursing aides and home health aides) are foreign-born. Immigration reform could help strengthen that workforce.

Posted on Friday, March 14th, 2014. Filed under Estate Planning, Long-Term Care, Medicaid, Public Benefits, Senior Law News.
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