How a Special Needs Trust Can Benefit You and Your Family

special needs, DuPage County estate planning attorneysIt can be terribly challenging to plan for a time when you are not around to care for your loved ones. However, facing this reality by making an estate plan is one of the most selfless actions you can take. This is an especially true if you have a child, sibling, or other close loved one who has a serious disability. If you have been responsible for caring for a loved one who cannot care for himself or herself, you may want to find a way of providing for him or her after you pass away. One way to do just this is through an estate planning tool called a special needs trust.

Planning for the Care of a Loved One with Special Needs

A special needs trust or supplemental needs trust is an estate planning instrument that can be critically important to individuals who have a disabled loved one in their care. This instrument works by allowing the caregiver to place funds in the trust, which can then be used for the future care of their disabled loved one. A special needs trust allows you to put aside money for your loved one without affecting the disabled person’s eligibility for government assistance programs. Special needs trusts can be funded through gifts and inheritances or a lump-sum settlement. Without a special needs trust, money left to your loved one could potential disqualify him or her for certain government aid programs.

Leaving Money to a Loved One Could Increase His or Her Available Assets Too Much

The majority of government-funded aid is distributed to individuals under a certain income level. For example, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and housing subsidies all have income criteria that a person must meet in order to qualify for the financial assistance. If you leave money to your disabled loved one without the appropriate estate planning instrument, it could be counted toward his or her available assets. If the funds are substantial, this money could bump your loved one’s income up to a level which makes him or her ineligible for programs with income or asset limits.

A properly-drafted special needs trust helps you ensure that your disabled loved one will receive the funds he or she needs in a way that does not jeopardize participation in other government assistance programs. Ideally, a special needs trust will help your disabled family member enjoy a high quality of life even after you have passed away.

Contact a Wheaton, Illinois Estate Planning Attorney for Help

Drafting a special needs trust or other estate planning instrument can be quite complex. For quality legal assistance from a knowledgeable DuPage County estate planning lawyer, contact Stock, Carlson, Oldfield and McGrath LLC. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-665-2500 today.



What the Estate of Prince Can Teach Everyone About the Importance of Wills

Wheaton Illinois estate planning attorneysPrince Rogers Nelson, one of the most beloved pop icons in history, spent his life fighting to maintain creative and legal control over his career. Yet, in the months that followed his death, it became evident that he had not been quite as vigilant when it came to legally documenting what would happen to those assets after he died. In other words, Prince died without a will. As a result, his substantial estate – his alleged vault of unreleased music, his roughly $300 million in various assets – have become a cautionary tale that everyone can learn from.

What Happens in the Absence of a Will?

Prince's estate is being handled by the state. This means that the state appoints an administrator (who may not be a person you would approve of), and your assets will be distributed to the next of kin. This can be problematic for a number of reasons. First, the state must establish who your true heirs are. Second, the distribution to those heirs may not resemble your wishes.

Maybe you wanted some of your estate to go to a special charity, your grandchildren, or a college friend that supported you during a difficult time in your life. Or maybe you did not want any of your estate to go to a brother with an alcohol problem, and wanted it to go to step-children instead.  Without a will, those wishes become a moot point.

Furthermore, your heirs can do whatever they wish with your assets. Family heirlooms, creative property, and more may be lost forever, sold to the highest bidder, or otherwise mishandled. For example, the unreleased music of Prince might never be heard because the heir who inherits it will get to choose what happens to it.

Without a Will, Details of Your Estate Are Public

Another obvious lesson from Prince's death is that the absence of a will makes the details of your estate public. It gets discussed by complete strangers, and your heirs have zero privacy. In contrast, a will can protect them from the prying of the public and ensure that the distribution of your estate remains a private family matter. A will can also protect your heirs – and your assets – from unnecessary and expensive tax obligations.

Craft Your Estate Plan Today

At Stock, Carlson, Oldfield and McGrath LLC, we understand just how important it is that your estate be distributed according to your wishes. We also know that the financial future of your family depends on our ability to craft a creative, effective estate plan. Our skilled Wheaton, Illinois estate planning attorneys respond to your needs with attentive, personalized, high-quality representation for your estate planning needs. Call 630-665-2500 and schedule your confidential consultation to learn more.



Mapping Out Your Financial Future

estate plan, your financial future, Wheaton estate planning attorneysEstate planning and retirement planning tend to go hand in hand. Having a solid financial plan in place for your retirement also enables you to form certain elements of your estate plan, such as special needs trusts and living wills.

Financial advisors note key milestones that every person should be aware of when it comes to retirement planning. At each milestone, it is suggested that you take stock in what you have in place regarding your retirement funds and analyze any steps you need to take to remain on target.

Estate Planning Milestones

50 years old: When you reach this milestone, you are allowed to make what is referred to as "catch-up contributions" to both your individual retirement account as well as to your 401(k) account. Last year, the catch-up contribution for retirement accounts was $1,000, and for 401(k)s it was $5,500.

55 years old: Once you turn 55, you are allowed to begin taking early withdrawals from your 401(k), penalty-free. However, there are strict rules associated with these withdrawals—the accounts must be employer-established (not IRAs) and you must have worked for the employer up until you turned 55 years old.

59 and one-half years old: At the half-way point of your last year before hitting 60, you are allowed to take penalty-free withdrawals from both IRAs and 401(k) accounts. For those still working at this age, your plan administrator will be able to provide requirements on what is referred to as "in-service" withdrawals.

62 years old: This is the earliest age you can retire and collect Social Security benefits. However, keep in mind that the earlier you retire, the less your benefit will be. At 62, your benefit will be approximately 30 percent less than if you retire at this age.

65 years old: You can sign up for Medicare once you turn 65 years old. Also, if you have been contributing money to a health care savings account, you are now allowed to take money out for non-medical reasons without having to pay a penalty.

Between the ages of 66 and 67 years old: If you were born between 1943 and 1959, turning 66 means you have reached retirement age and can collect Social Security. For those born in 1960 or after, you reach your Social Security retirement at age 67.

70 years old: If you wait to retire until your 70th birthday, you will receive your full Social Security benefit.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

It is never too early to start planning your financial future for retirement. Contact the experienced Wheaton estate planning attorneys of Stock, Carlson, Flynn & McGrath, LLC at 630-665-2500 to schedule your consultation.