Social Security Disability &
  Special Needs Planning News
 Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law
In This Issue:
3 Costly Mistakes Made By Most Parents Who Have Kids With Special Needs
The Definitive Guide to Social Security Spousal Benefits
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Upcoming Events

Special Needs Planning and Disability Planning Workshop 

Sheri's April 27 presentation on Social Security Disability benefits and  S pecial  N eeds  P lanning  at the Cedar Lane School in Vienna, has been POSTPONED UNTIL MAY 16TH at 6:30 PM.  For more information, and to RSVP, please email: 

Information Session on Social Security Disability Benefits for People with MS 

Sheri will be speaking on Social Security Disability benefits for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) on May 10, 2017  at the Vienna Presbyterian Church located at 124 Park St. N.E., Vienna .   Please feel free to join us at 7:00 pm!

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Source: Reprinted from the April 2017 Newsletter of Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law,


Issue: # 97

 April 2017

April is Autism Awareness Month. This is an observance that is very important to me and my law firm.
Recent statistics show that 1 in 65 kids are now diagnosed with autism. Many of these kids and teens will go on to need a lifetime of care. And, sadly, the clarity and guidance that parents need regarding future planning for adult transitions is still sorely lacking.
When a teen with disabilities turns 18, he or she is considered a legal adult in the eyes of the law. That means mom and dad lose the ability to make medical, financial, and personal decisions for their son or daughter, who is typically mentally or physically unable to manage these issues themselves.  
In order to avoid this, the parents should file to be Guardian of their own adult child through the court, or, if the child is high functioning and able to sign legal documents, the parents could become Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Agents in order to continue to make decisions.
These legal issues can sneak up on even the most prudent parents. Some parents only end up in my office after they are told by a doctor that they can no longer consult with them about their child's health. Others end up in my office when the school will not let them attend the IEP meeting.  By obtaining Guardianship as soon as possible these and other crises can be avoided.
If you have a child with disabilities, I can't stress enough the importance of working with a qualified Attorney that handles special needs issues who can help you through these transitions. The key is to plan often and plan early, to ensure your child is positioned to stay as independent as possible, is financially secure, and is set up to receive a lifetime of care.
If we can help you put a special needs plan in place for your disabled loved one, whether you are caring for a child, teen, or adult, feel free to call the office and schedule a meeting with us. You can also learn about more planning strategies for children with disabilities in the featured article below.
3 Costly Mistakes Made By Most Parents Who Have Kids With Special Needs

Children with disabilities have unique Special Needs Planning requirements. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions when it comes to securing the financial future your child deserves. Even well-meaning caregivers and service organizations sometimes don't understand issues and give bad advice.  It is really critical for these families to fully understand their options because these misconceptions can result in costly mistakes. Below are just a few.
COSTLY MISTAKE #1: Disinheriting Your Child to Preserve Government Benefits

Many children and adults with special needs rely on government benefits such as SSI and Medicaid for their basic needs (including health insurance). There are some who would suggest that you disinherit your child to protect his or her benefits.  But government benefits hardly provide enough money to secure food and shelter. So what happens after you become incapacitated or pass away? Will your child be able to maintain the life that you have so carefully crafted for them? Probably not.
If your child is likely to require government assistance to meet his or her basic needs, you should consider establishing a Special Needs Trust.  If done properly, a Special Needs Trust can protect your child's public benefits and help them maintain their lifestyle even after you are no longer there to support them.
COSTLY MISTAKE #2: Procrastination

It's critical that all parents with minor children do estate planning. You just never know when you might become incapacitated or pass away. But it is even more critical that parents of kids with Special Needs plan early. That is because a child without special needs will be able to work and provide for their own financial well-being when they become adults. However, your child with disabilities may never be able to do that.  Plan early because your failure to properly plan for them can never be undone.

COSTLY MISTAKE #3: Creating a "DIY" or Generic S pecial Needs Trust

A Special Needs Trust should be created by a lawyer who has expertise in this area of the law.  It is possible to create a generic trust online that may protect your child's government benefits, but are not designed to meet your child's particular needs. It is critical to design a Special Needs Trust that will ensure that your and your child's specific requirements are met.

A properly drafted and funded Special Needs Trust can ensure that your child has sufficient assets to live the way you planned throughout their lifetime. But be sure to see an experienced attorney and don't rely on what others may be telling you.

The Definitive Guide to Social Security Spousal Benefits

I am frequently asked about Social Security Spousal Benefits.  They can be very confusing, but here is all you need to know.

When a spouse stays at home to raise children, their income can be severely limited. But that doesn't mean their retirement is lost.

Married people with little earnings history, or even no earnings history at all, can qualify for Social Security Spousal Benefits.

The  Social Security Administration (SSA)  lets the spouse with little or no earnings history claim a retirement benefit that's equal to half of the Social Security benefit their spouse would receive at full retirement age (FRA).

There are, of course, a few conditions that have to be met in order to qualify:

Currently Married Couples:
  1. The spouse with little or no earnings history must be at least age 62.  (Yet full retirement age is 66 or 67 for most people.  So if a person chooses to take a spousal benefit at age 62, they will only get 70% of the benefit they would get at their full retirement age of either 66 or 67);
  2. Only one member of the couple can claim the spousal benefit;
  3. You can't claim both your own Social Security Retirement benefit and half of your spouse's;
  4. Your spouse must be receiving their Social Security Retirement benefit in order for you to take the spousal benefit.  (This is a new policy that went into effect May 1, 2016 which is different than in past years, when the "file and suspend" approach was available);
  5. You must be married for at least 12 months to claim the spousal benefit; and
  6. If you're still working and you elect to take the spousal benefit before your Full Retirement Age, you may have to settle for less, temporarily.  (You are penalized with a $1 reduction in benefits for every $2 you earn above a limit of $16,920 annually. However, any money that's taken away will be repaid back to you via your monthly benefit when you either stop working or reach your Full Retirement Age.)
Divorced Couples:

As long as your marriage lasted 10 years and you've been divorced for two years, you can claim the spousal benefit.  (Both you and your ex-spouse must be at least 62.  And if you're married again before age 60, you will be denied the spousal benefit from your prior marriage.)

Widows and Widowers:

If you're 60 and your marriage to your late spouse lasted at least nine months, then instead of receiving half of your deceased spouse's Social Security Retirement, you can get 100% of their benefit when you file at your full retirement age.  (Yet, full retirement age is 66 or 67 for most people.  So if a person chooses to take a spousal benefit at age 60, they will get a reduced benefit amount then what they would get at their full retirement age of either 66 or 67.)  This is a rare example of a time when you can claim a Social Security Retirement benefit before age 62.

Free Download of Sheri Abrams' Book "Don't Gamble With Your Social Security Disability Benefits"

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Oakton, VA 22124
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If you know of someone who could use our legal services, please forward to him/her this e-mail newsletter or give him/her our telephone number: (571) 328-5795.


We provide legal services in the areas of Social Security Disability Law, Special Needs Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Special Needs Trusts, Wills and Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Advance Medical Directives (Living Wills), Guardianship, Conservatorship, Disability Planning and Student Loan Discharge. 
If you, or someone you know, is involved with an educational event or support group that would benefit from a presentation on any of the areas of law for which we provide legal services, please call us at (571) 328-5795.