Social Security Disability &
  Special Needs Planning News
 Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law
In This Issue:
Should My Child's Special Needs Trust Own a Home?
Do I Need Two Special Needs Trusts for Two Special Needs Children?
Social Security Adds 5 New Compassionate Allowances Conditions
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Source: Reprinted from the August 2018 Newsletter of Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law,


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Issue: #113

 August 2018

It's been an exciting week with my son receiving his very first letter of acceptance to college! He applied through a special program at Longwood University that offered us an immediate decision when we were visiting Farmville last week. He really liked the school and it is a great relief knowing that he has one solid acceptance in his hand.
Next month I'll be the guest speaker for the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) -- Prince William, on the topic of Special Needs Trusts. The event is open to the public and if you have a loved one with mental health challenges, special needs or other disabilities, I'd encourage you to attend. You can view all the details and RSVP by clicking here.
I was also honored to learn that I was selected as a 2019 Best Lawyer  in Virginia by my peers in the legal community. I feel incredibly lucky to have a career where I can make a difference and that I love.
Lastly, for some fun news, I started taking a pickleball class with a friend. It's more challenging than I realized and a great form of exercise for those of us getting older.
I hope that you have a great month,


Should My Child's Special Needs Trust Own a Home?

One of the biggest concerns parents of children with special needs have is where their child will live in the future. Adequate housing options for people with disabilities is a challenge to say the least. Some parents want their child to continue to live in the family home after they are gone. Other parents consider leaving funds for their child that would allow him or her to own their own home. In both cases, it must be determined if the home should be owned by a Special Needs Trust.  Here is an overview of the rules and issues that can arise when a Special Needs Trust owns a home.

It is important to identify what type of trust would own the home. There are a few options. A First Party Special Needs Trust is funded with the child's own assets, and after the disabled child's death, the state would be reimbursed from the funds in the trust for Medicaid services used during the child's lifetime.  A Third Party Special Needs Trust is funded with someone else's assets ---- such as the parents. This type of trust does not require reimbursement to the state.
Another consideration in deciding whether a residence is better owned by a Special Needs Trust or the individual is whether that person has the legal capacity to hold title on their own and what decision-making supports the person needs. Minors simply cannot hold title and would require a guardian/conservator to be appointed.  Many adults also need support to manage home ownership. If an adult is under a guardianship/conservatorship, the guardian/ conservator would likely have legal authority to manage the property.

You should also think about who might live in the home. If the home is owned outright by a First Party Special Needs Trust, there may be complications if other family members also live there. Distributions from First Party Special Needs Trusts are required to be for the sole benefit of the beneficiary, and this may be interpreted differently by Social Security.  Depending on the level of care-giving performed by family members, they may be required to pay rent in order to avoid affecting the beneficiary's eligibility for government benefits.

There's quite a bit to think about when it comes to home ownership. If this is something you are considering, please c
all the office to schedule an appointment and we'll be happy to walk you through these and other complex issues so that you can make the best decision for your child.

Do I Need Two Special Needs Trusts for Two Special Needs Children?

I recently met with a family that has two children with special needs. They asked me a very good question:

Do I need two Special Needs Trusts? One for each child? Or, can we create one joint trust?

In a perfect world, each child would have his or her own Special Needs Trust. However, administering two trusts with its own assets could be very complex. Depending on the family's situation, it could be possible to set up one Special Needs Trust with multiple beneficiaries in order to avoid unnecessary complications.

However, not every family can take advantage of one Special Needs Trust when there is more than one child with special needs. For example, if a child receives funds of his own from an inheritance or personal injury settlement, he must have his own First Party Special Needs Trust to hold the assets and he can't share the benefits with his siblings even if a sibling also has special needs. Also, if each disabled child's needs are entirely different, it may make sense to have two Special Needs Trusts in place.

But, for the family I met with, and many others, one Special Needs Trust will work. In these cases, the trust must be a Third Party Special Needs Trust which is funded with money that doesn't belong to the beneficiaries. The trustee of this type of trust must be familiar with the needs of both trust beneficiaries and should be capable of making decisions where there are competing needs. You can see that it would be important for the parents, or others who set up this type of Special Needs Trust, to outline their goals for the trust and their thoughts about how the trust funds should be allocated.   A Memorandum of intent can be very useful for this purpose.

When you are dealing with Special Needs Trusts with more than one beneficiary, it is critical to make the right decision when choosing a trustee. Distributions from the trust for the benefit of one beneficiary could impact the benefits the other child receives so it is critical that the trustee knows the rules and intricacies of the law to avoid any issues.

It's important that you decide whether a single Special Needs Trust will work for both of your children with special needs. Please call our office before making this decision so that you don't jeopardize one or both of your children's eligibility for the critical government benefits that they need.

Social Security Adds 5 New Compassionate Allowances Conditions

The Social Security Administration has expanded it's list of conditions qualifying for expedited processing for disability benefits.

The 5 new Compassionate Allowances conditions brings the total number of conditions on the Compassionate Allowances list to 233.

The Compassionate Allowances program reduces the time it takes to make decisions on disability applications filed by claimants with the most serious disabilities, so they receive decisions on their claims within days, instead of months or years.

The new conditions are:

  1. Fibrolamellar Cancer
  2. Megacystis Microcolon Intestinal Hypoperistalsis Syndrome
  3. Megalencephaly-Capillary Malformation Syndrome
  4. Superficial Siderosis of the Central Nervous System
  5. Tetrasomy 18p
To see the complete list of Compassionate Allowances conditions, please click here.

Free Download of Sheri Abrams' New Special Needs Planning Guide!

Special Needs Planning is critical to ensure that parents can access key benefits and resources that will be necessary to ensure a smooth transition for their child into adulthood. 

You can download a free copy:  here

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

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You can download a free copy: 

For more information please click  here  to read our Press Release.     

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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. 
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