Friday, June 26, 2009

Can't stress it enough... if you have kids, you MUST have a will.

The recent passing of the King of Pop, raises an issue that comes up again and again in estate planning, those with children need to have a will in place.

Not only can a will deal with some financial issues, as blogged in my July and August 2008 posts, but it can also be a vehicle to name who you want to serve as guardian for your children. A court may ignore a provision naming a guardian, if it does not serve the best interests of the child, such as if the other parent is living and fit to parent or if the named guardian poses some threat of endangerment. However, if you fail to prepare a will naming a guardian, you leave it entirely up to a judge who is a stranger to your family and may not place your children with the most appropriate caregiver.

If you have children and do not have a will, contact a licensed attorney.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Special Needs and Supplemental Needs Trusts

I realized I skipped last month. I'll try not to do a cop-out by talking about two, very related, topics: Special Needs Trusts and Supplemental Needs Trusts.

Typically, state and federal governments will ignore trusts and include amounts in trusts as an asset of the beneficiary for purposes of determining eligibility for state benefits. Two exceptions are Special Needs Trusts and Supplemental Needs Trusts. Both trusts are vehicles to allow a person who is recieving disability benefits, additional income and assets to meet needs beyond what the government benefits cover. Essentially, these trusts allow disabled persons to have a lifestyle beyond what the government benefits provide, without jeopardizing their ability to receive those benefits.

Special Needs Trusts are funded by the individual’s own assets. Supplemental Needs Trusts are funded by a third party’s assets. There are strict rules on how these trusts are established, funded and what types of expenses can be paid for by the trust. If you fail to meet these rules, the trust will be disregarded and the trust assets could be counted against the beneficiary. The rules surrounding these trusts are very specific, ridgid and highly technical. If the trust provisions violates an applicable federal or state law, the trust is disregarded. If a Special Needs Trust or Supplemental Needs Trust might be right for your loved one, it is very important that you work with a licensed attorney.