Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Passage Presents New Opportunities in the New Year

January 30, 2017

On December 13, 2016, approximately two weeks prior to the start of the new year, the Special Needs Trust Fairness (SNTF) Act became law.  The SNTF Act corrected what appears to have been a long-standing error in the law regarding who is authorized, pursuant to the Social Security Act, to create first-party special needs trusts (commonly referred to as a (d) (4) (A) trust).  For many disabled persons, the ability to create a first-party special needs trusts is extremely important and critical to his/her continued access to important government benefits.  As such, the passage of the SNTF Act is a significant victory for competent disabled adults, who now have the same right that parents, grandparents, guardians, and courts have to create a first-party trust, for their own benefit with their own assets.

Prior to December 13, 2016, and for more than two decades, such individuals were prohibited from creating their own first-party special needs ((d)(4)(A)) trust.  Rather, the prior law stated that such trusts could only be created by the individual’s parent, grandparent, or guardian or by a court, even in a circumstance in which the individual was legally competent and able to handle his or her own affairs.  This error in the law left legally competent disabled adults in the unfortunate circumstance of having to either rely on the assistance of a qualified family member, or to expend significant funds petitioning a court to establish a first-party trust, when a qualified family member was either no longer alive, unwilling, or unable to assist.

Specifically, the SNTF Act, which was included in the 21st Century Cures Act, accomplished this change by amending the Social Security Act to add “the individual” as a person who is now allowed to create a first-party specials needs trust for the individual’s own benefit.  It should be noted that the SNTF Act did NOT make any other changes to the law regarding first-party special needs trusts, which still requires the inclusion of a payback provision to allow state Medicaid offices to recover expenditures made by the state for the individual’s benefit from the any remaining trust assets, after the individual’s death.

Quite simply:  The bottom line is that the addition of just two words (“the individual’) to the Social Security Act has made a world of difference for many legally competent adults.

Planning for special needs is complex.  As such, persons wishing to learn more about special needs planning for yourself or a loved one, are strongly encouraged to seek specific legal advice from an attorney, whose practice includes special needs planning.

The Elder Law Center, P.C. (subsidiary of Mickey, Wilson, Weiler, Renzi & Andersson, P.C., http://www.mickeywilson.com) is located in Sugar Grove, IL, Kane County, in the Chicago Western Suburbs, phone number: 630-844-0065.

Social Security Retirement Benefits: A Not So Simple Decision

October 12, 2015

For those of you who will soon be eligible to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits, you are probably already acutely aware of the decision that lies before you.  That decision, of course, is when is the best time for you to start collecting benefits.   You are wondering whether you should start collecting your benefits at age 62; whether you should wait until your full retirement age; whether you should file and suspend, etc.  If you are married, then this decision is even more complicated and the range of options before you and your spouse increases significantly.  You have probably begun to receive mailers for workshops where planners will be on hand to help you make that determination.  In addition, you may have engaged in internet research and discovered the plethora of articles on the topic, as well as a vast number of Social Security retirement benefit calculators promising to give you the magic answer that you seek.   After having engaged in my own personal research and educating myself on this very important topic, and after having had the pleasure and privilege of attending a presentation by the extremely knowledgeable and highly regarded Social Security guru, attorney Avram Sacks, at the IL-NAELA “Unprogram” on October 3, 2015, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • This decision is anything but simple;
  • There is no “one-size fits all” answer;
  • Not all benefits calculators are alike, as not all calculators will necessarily take into consideration all relevant and pertinent factors impacting this decision;
  • Not all benefits calculators offer “error” free results;
  • Certain decisions cannot be undone; and,
  • Absent a working crystal ball, any decision one makes will ultimately incorporate certain variables that will be based upon the best available information regarding health, expected longevity, future earnings, anticipated taxes, etc., which in the end may prove to have been based on incorrect assumptions.

So what is one to do improve their chances of maximizing these benefits for the remainder of their life?  Quite simply, our office recommends consulting a knowledgeable and highly-regarded Social Security guru, before making any final decisions.

©Copyright 2015 by Constance Burnett Renzi. All rights reserved.

Our office is available for consultation regarding estate planning (including Wills and/or Trusts), life care planning (powers of attorney), special needs planning, probate, guardianship matters, Medicaid eligibility for long-term care, and/or other elder law issues.  The Elder Law Center, P.C.  proudly serves clients throughout Illinois and is located in Aurora, IL,  in the Chicago Western Suburbs.  Our office can be reached via telephone (630-844-0065) or email through our website:http://www.elderlawpc.com.

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