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Disability and estate planning: growing uncertainty about SSD

People with special needs do not only need lots of hands-on care. They also need intelligent strategies for an appropriate party to manage the money available for their care.

In practice, this may mean helping a disabled individual by setting up a special needs trust. In Massachusetts and across the nation, it is important for these and other trusts to be structured properly. In particular, they should be structured in ways that do not sabotage someone's ability to receive government benefits the beneficiary may be eligible for - particularly Social Security disability insurance (SSDI).

ranted, the increase in the number of disability claims in recent years has put tremendous financial strain on the Social Security disability system. It isn't only that Congress has broadened the definition of disability. The American population is also aging, resulting in more people with disabling conditions.

In addition, the federal government is under intense pressure to reign in the budget for social programs. As a result, there is considerable concern right now about the viability of the Disability Trust Fund.

This does not mean that Congress will let the Social Security disability system erode entirely. After all, millions of people depend upon it.

But it does mean estate planning decisions for disabled family members should be handled with great care. Maintaining eligibility, where possible, for public assistance programs like SSD, Medicare or Medicaid is an important factor. So is wise management of private assets in ways that make sense for a particular individual.

Special needs trusts are only one example of how these assets can be maximized. Each person's needs are different and should be considered on their own terms.

Source: New York Post, "Disabled Fund," John Aidan Byrne, June 8, 2013

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