Anyone knows that raising children is a daunting task. There are no handbooks, no formal educational requirements, no tests that need to be passed . . . the majority of us do the best we can and hope that we don’t do any lasting damage and the therapy bills aren’t too high. As difficult as raising a child without any developmental disabilities can be, a parent raising a child with developmental disabilities encounters issues that many people never even know exist.
In 1969, California enacted the Lanterman Act, which guarantees individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities the right to obtain the support services necessary to live as independently as possible in their own communities. Prior to that time, if not living elsewhere, the only options for people with developmental disabilities were state-run institutions, where they were often placed in overcrowded facilities located wherever the state had space, oftentimes far away from family members and loved ones.
Last month, Advocates for Californians with developmental disabilities filed a lawsuit claiming that the State of California is violating various state and federal laws, among them, the Lanterman Act, by failing to provide basic support services which allow Californians with developmental disabilities to live safely in their communities. The lawsuit alleges that the State has abandoned people with developmental disabilities and exposed them to health and safety risks by failing to provide reasonable support services as a result of a decade of rate freezes, program closures and devastating budget cuts.
With more and more funding and programs – both State and Federal – being cut, it is imperative that anyone caring for a person with special needs does everything possible to preserve the funds and services available for him/her to live as fulfilling and productive a life as possible.
Many people do not know there are certain governmental benefits which are available to a person with disabilities provided that certain requirements are met. The disabled individual may be entitled to receive SSI, Medi-Cal, SSDI and Medicare (or a combination thereof). Although not every disabled individual may need the monetary benefits of SSI and/or SSDI, the Medi-Cal and/or Medicarebenefits are often extremely important, as it is difficult, if not impossible, for many disabled individuals to obtain any form of independent health insurance. However, if the disabled individual’s assets/income/ability to earn income are too great, these benefits may not be available to him.
What if you leave $500,000 to your disabled adult child for his lifetime needs, however, he needs the Medi-Cal benefits he currently receives? If you leave the money to him outright, he will be disqualified from receiving SSI, as he doesn’t meet the minimum asset – requirements needed to qualify for SSI. Once he loses SSI, he loses Medi-Cal, unless he can qualify under an exception. This is where a Special Needs Trust steps in. If you leave the money not to your son, but to a Special Needs Trust for his benefit, the $500,000 is not counted as an “asset” for SSI purposes, and therefore, as long as the trust is properly administered, his governmental benefits, including Medi-Cal, remain uninterrupted. A Special Needs Trust can be an invaluable resource for an individual with developmental disabilities, as it can provide for his lifetime needs by allowing him to access the money left to him by his loved ones, while also allowing him to access those benefits which only the government can provide. An added benefit of a properly drafted Special Needs Trust is that it can also provide the family of a disabled individual with a priceless gift … peace of mind. Call us at (650) 463-1550 to make your appointment today, and bring a little peace into your life.