Comprehensive Planning. Lifelong Solutions.

What Are Pooled Special Needs Trusts?

By Hook Law Center

A special needs trust can be a crucial tool for many families to pass on assets to their special-needs children without jeopardizing the recipient’s eligibility for public benefits. Some families may be interested in “pooled special needs trusts,” which offer similar benefits with certain advantages, but families may be unsure of the pros and cons.

Trusts must have trustees, or managers. Many trust holders hire their estate planning attorneys as trustees, while families of more limited means often turn to a relative or close family friend with the applicable know-how. A pooled trust may be a good option for those who cannot come up with a logical choice for a trustee, or for those without enough assets to justify an individual trust.

Pooled trusts are run by nonprofit organizations for the benefit of multiple beneficiaries. Assets from multiple families are pooled and invested together, and the funds are spent for the benefit of the individuals in proportion to their share of the entire trust.

Pooled trusts vary widely in terms of fees, available services, and contracts. Some provide complete care of beneficiaries, while others provide only appropriate money management.

Managers of pooled trusts must be knowledgeable about laws governing public benefits, and directors usually have relatives with special needs and understand the community’s needs. Pooled trusts give you the benefits of special needs trusts even if you do not have a lot of money to leave to a loved one.

On the other hand, pooled trusts can be expensive, and it can be difficult or impossible to move assets from one pooled trust to another. Also, they are only as good as their managers, and the nonprofits that run them may decline in quality of service or even go out of business if they face financial problems or changes in management.

The attorneys at Hook Law Center can help you decide what kind of special needs trust best suits your family.

Posted on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014. Filed under Estate Planning, Long-Term Care.

How to Prevent Identity Theft with Your Medicare ID Card

By Hook Law Center

A recent Reuters article highlights an identity security problem for U.S. seniors. Identification cards issued by Medicare contain instructions to carry the card with you at all times. But your card also contains your full social security number (SSN). Losing the card places you at risk of identity theft and fraudulent benefit claims.

No government agencies track data on theft of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards, but it is clearly a problem. The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the recovery of $4.3 billion from attempted federal health insurance fraud schemes in a single fiscal year – a record high.

In 2007, the George W. Bush administration ordered all federal agencies to cease any unnecessary use of Social Security numbers. And the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) acknowledges the need to remove SSNs from Medicare cards. But doing so would cost between $255 and $317 million, according to a Government Accountability Office report – funds that are hard to secure.

In the meantime, the AARP recommends seniors do not carry the cards, saying it is usually unnecessary to do so. An AARP representative told Reuters her recommendation for seniors who are uncomfortable being without the card is to make a photocopy of it with the first five digits of their Social Security number masked out. Then you can have proof of Medicare enrollment with you, just in case, while protecting yourself from identity theft.

Posted on Friday, April 18th, 2014. Filed under Estate Planning, Senior Law News.
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