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What Does Special Needs Planning for My Loved One Entail?

You can take several steps to plan for a loved one with special needs or disability, including:

Contact a special needs planning lawyer with our firm to learn more about special needs planning.

How Can My Loved One with Special Needs Qualify for Government Benefits?

An adult with special needs can qualify for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under certain circumstances. Requirements to be eligible for these government programs include the following:

In Florida, any person who qualifies for SSI is automatically eligible for Medicaid coverage. A special needs planning attorney with our firm can help you better understand qualifying for government benefits.

What Is a Special Needs Trust?

A Special Needs Trust (SNT) manages assets for a person with special needs. These trusts must keep the assets separate from the individual to qualify for SSI and Medicaid's income and asset limitations. Without diminishing your family member’s benefits, a Special Needs Trust can pay for things outside of the regular cost of living expenses.

Some people with special needs can perform limited work and earn their own income. Our special needs lawyers can help you determine an appropriate disbursement schedule for a special needs trust, factoring in your loved one's regular income.

What Is an ABLE Account?

The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) created ABLE accounts, a special savings account that can pay for more qualified disability expenses than an SNT. However, ABLE accounts have an annual contribution limit of $16,000.

If your loved one became disabled before age 26, they are eligible for an ABLE account. ABLE account funds can cover costs of living, education, transportation, support services, technology, and other comfort items and services.

What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and How Does It Work?

Disabled workers with a qualifying work history are eligible for SSDI benefits. The Social Security Agency has strict definitions of disability related to the severity of the condition and how it affects your loved one's ability to work.

The average SSDI beneficiaries received in 2022 was $1,358 and may rise to $1,483 in 2023. The current maximum for SSDI is approximately $3,345 based on work credits. Contact a Social Security Disability lawyer with our firm to learn more about what SSDI benefits for which your loved one might qualify.

What Is the Difference Between SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

SSDI requires a work history to qualify, unlike Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which benefits low-income people without a qualifying work history who also do not have many assets.

Your loved one may qualify to apply for both SSDI and SSI if they have the necessary work credits and have limited assets and income. At our Social Security Disability law firm, we strive to help our clients qualify for the maximum benefits possible. Contact us for a free consultation with a Social Security Disability attorney in Central Florida.

How Will Your Loved One Qualify for SSDI?

Certain conditions, such as ALS, may automatically qualify an applicant for SSDI benefits. Otherwise, applicants must qualify for SSDI under certain conditions, including:

  1. Not currently working or earning less than $1,350 per month
  2. The severity of the condition that impedes their ability to work
  3. The condition appearing on the Social Security list of disabling medical conditions
  4. Inability to perform the same work as before their disability
  5. Inability to perform other work

If your loved one qualifies for SSDI benefits, an SSD attorney with our firm can help your family file an optimized application, organize your documentation, and submit an appeal for a rejection.

How Long Does It Take to Receive SSDI Benefits?

Beneficiaries must wait six months from the date the disability began to begin receiving SSDI benefits. Additionally, it could take the SSA three to five months to process the application. Some applications fall under the SSA's Compassionate Allowances (CAL) classification, and they will expedite review.

What Is Guardianship?

A guardian is a person a court appoints to care for a child or adult called a "ward."

When a minor child's parents pass away or lose their parental rights, the court will appoint a legal guardian to make crucial decisions for the child until they turn 18. For children with disabilities who need help in daily decision-making, parents might want to appoint themselves or a trusted relative as guardian.

A court may also appoint a guardian for an adult who develops dementia or suffers cognitive or physical disabilities. You must file a petition to determine incapacity so the court can determine if the adult requires legal guardianship.

A lawyer for legal guardianship with our guardianship law firm can help you file the appropriate petitions with the court so that you can rest easy knowing you have secured the proper care for your loved one.

What Are the Types of Guardianship in Florida?

Full guardianship is for people who cannot care adequately for themselves and need a full-time guardian to act as their primary caregiver and decision-maker.

Limited guardianship is for people who only need help in certain areas, like managing their finances and property. They may still be fully capable of dressing and feeding themselves, doing chores around the house, or other daily tasks. Consult a guardianship attorney at our firm to learn more about different guardianship types.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Guardian?

A guardian of a person makes decisions about the ward's living arrangements, medical procedures, medication, physical therapy, transportation, nutrition, and other day-to-day decisions.

A guardian of an estate, also called a conservator, manages financial decisions for the ward, including managing property, paying bills, and using the ward's assets to support the person during their incapacity.

How Do I File for Guardianship for an Elderly Family Member?

You can only petition for guardianship of an elderly family member if the court judges them to be legally incompetent, either fully or partially. You must first file a petition to determine the incapacity of your family member before you can file a petition to appoint a guardian.

Guardianship is a last resort measure. Before appointing a guardian, the court will prioritize Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Advance Healthcare Directives. Ask an elderly guardianship attorney at our firm for more information.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the process by which the circuit court manages the estate of a decedent who passed away and owned property in that county. In Probate, the court will determine if the Last Will and Testament is valid. It will also determine how to use the decedent’s assets to pay final expenses, taxes, and debts to creditors on behalf of the decedent.

Because beneficiaries receive their inheritance after Probate, there is always the risk of those assets being used to pay the decedent’s debts. An experienced probate lawyer can help your family represent their interests to receive their inheritance.

What Is a Personal Representative?

According to Florida law, the court will appoint a personal representative (commonly called an executor or administrator) to administer the probate estate, including:

If your loved one passes away without a Will, the court will follow intestate succession to distribute assets to assumed beneficiaries after Probate.

Why Should the Personal Representative Retain an Estate and Probate Attorney?

Probate is a complex legal process to manage a decedent’s estate. Beneficiaries receive their inheritances from assets left after Probate. The personal representative should hire an experienced estate and probate attorney to reduce the risk of a beneficiary bringing forward a probate litigation case against them.

Is There a Way to Avoid Probate?

Assets in trust bypass probate. Whether in a Revocable or Family Fortress Trust, these assets can skip Probate, and the trustee can administer these assets immediately to beneficiaries. Probate can take over a year to process, meaning that beneficiaries must wait for at least this long to receive their inheritances.

A trust and probate attorney can help you create a Family Fortress Trust to store assets you don’t want to go through Probate when your family member passes away. If your loved one passed away and had assets in a trust, the trustee can distribute those assets.

Who Can Act as a Personal Representative or Will Executor in Florida?

In general, anyone can serve as a Will executor in Florida if they:

A bank or another financial institution can also act as a Will executor, provided it is authorized to act as a fiduciary in Florida. Non-residents may serve as executors if they’re related to the decedent by marriage, blood, or adoption.

An estate administration attorney can ensure that your chosen representative may serve as your will executor in Florida.

How Long Does Estate Administration Take?

A typical Florida estate takes between 6 and 9 months to close, including probate and asset distribution. However, estate administration may take longer if the estate is especially large or complex or if it includes property in other states. For example, if the decedent owned real estate outside Florida, those assets may need to go through probate in the state where they are registered.

Inheritance disputes or conflicts over estate administration can also prolong estate closure. Our estate administration law firm can help Will executors and beneficiaries overcome hurdles while closing an estate.

What Happens if a Personal Representative Violates Their Duties?

Acting as a Will executor involves many complex duties, like inventorying and valuing assets, discharging tax liabilities, and managing the estate during closure. An executor who is not a legal or tax professional may accidentally mismanage the estate even if acting in good faith, which could lead to various legal repercussions. Beneficiaries may ask the court to appoint a different representative or file a lawsuit against the Will executor.

If you’re a Will executor, consulting an estate administration attorney can help you avoid estate closure mistakes, conflict with beneficiaries, and potential legal liability.

Does a Will Executor Need to Work with an Estate Administration Lawyer?

Although a Will executor may complete their obligations without a lawyer, experienced estate administration attorneys can provide invaluable help in wrapping up an estate. If you’re acting as a Will executor in Florida, you may benefit from working with an estate administration attorney when:

Is an Advance Directive the Same as a Living Will?

An Advance Directive, a.k.a Living Will or Proxy Directive, specifies the medical care you choose to receive (or forego) in cases of severe injury or incapacitation. Typically, an advance directive addresses sensitive topics like resuscitation, life-sustaining measures, palliative care, and organ donation.

Working with an advance directive attorney to create a Living Will can ensure this vital document is legally valid and free of omissions. An experienced living will lawyer can help you draft an Advance Directive that may reduce legal obstacles and help caregivers make critical decisions on your behalf when you cannot do so yourself.

What Should an Advance Directive Include?

An advance directive usually states the principal’s wishes regarding specific life-sustaining and end-of-life procedures, such as:

An Advance Directive also names a healthcare proxy, i.e., a trusted agent overseeing the care you receive and ensuring any treatment complies with your wishes.

If you split your time between Florida and another state (or states), you should consult an advance directive lawyer to make sure your Advance Directive or Living Will is also valid outside Florida.

Whom Should You Name as Your Healthcare Proxy?

Choosing the right healthcare proxy is a crucial decision that may eventually determine whether your emergency and end-of-life care comply with your wishes.

Your healthcare proxy can be a spouse, partner, parent, family member, or friend. In any case, the proxy should be someone who:

It’s also a good idea to appoint an alternate proxy in case your first-choice proxy cannot act on your behalf.

Can Family Members Dispute an Advance Directive?

Although an Advance Directive is a legally binding document, in some cases, family members may dispute its validity or question the conduct of a healthcare proxy. For instance, this may happen when families disagree with the principal’s decisions about life-sustaining care.

A proficient living will and trust attorney can check your Advance Directive for any inconsistencies that could lead to controversy in urgent situations.

What Should a Will Include?

An experienced wills and trusts attorney can help you create a Testamentary Will that adheres to Florida’s legal requirements and includes all the necessary provisions, such as:

If you don’t have a Will yet, contact our law firm as soon as possible. Our lawyers for wills will draft a clear and comprehensive Testamentary Will and suggest additional estate planning tools.

What is a Living Will?

Unlike a Testamentary Will, which takes effect after death, a Living Will (a.k.a Advance Directive) specifies the medical treatment the document’s creator chooses to receive while incapacitated because of injury or illness. A Living Will may state the principal’s choices for:

Creating a valid Living Will is especially important for individuals suffering from degenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s, or ALS. If you have an elderly parent with a progressive health condition, advise them to authorize a living will while they can.

What are the Advantages of a Revocable Living Trust?

The main advantage of a Revocable Living Trust in Florida is bypassing probate. Generally, assets a decedent owned in their name only must go through probate, a lengthy and potentially expensive legal process.

Our trust attorney can help you set up a Revocable Trust to avoid probate. You can name a successor trustee to handle trust management after your passing or incapacitation. That way, assets can pass directly to beneficiaries.

Keep in mind that a Revocable Trust doesn’t protect property from creditor or Medicaid claims.

Why Place Property in an Irrevocable Trust?

Once you place assets in an Irrevocable Trust, the trust becomes the legal owner of the property, limiting your ability to use trust assets or amend trust terms. However, irrevocable trusts offer an efficient legal way to protect assets and keep wealth in your family.

Competent trust attorneys may suggest strategies like:

Why is Estate Planning So Important?

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan can help you provide for your loved ones, protect your legacy, reduce family conflict, and possibly mitigate tax liability. A comprehensive estate plan gives you more control over your assets, both during life and after passing.

Keep in mind that you can only authorize wills, trusts, and POAs while you’re in full use of your mental capacity. That’s why, if you don’t have an estate plan already, you should consult (or recommend your loved one to consult) an estate planning lawyer as soon as possible.

What Happens If Someone Dies Without a Will in Florida?

If a Florida resident dies without leaving a valid Will, their assets will pass to surviving family members according to Florida’s intestate succession laws, which don’t always conform to what the decedent would have wished.

For example, if the deceased person was widowed and had children, all the property passes to the children. If the decedent also wants to leave something to their grandchild, niece, or surviving sibling, they must create a Will.

How can a Trust and Estate Planning Attorney Help Me Reduce Taxes?

A competent estate planning lawyer can propose several strategies to reduce inheritance taxes and protect your intended beneficiaries’ shares of your assets.

Asset protection strategies in Florida include:

Some of these methods work better in certain circumstances. For example, transfers to a life insurance trust may still count as part of the decedent’s estate unless the grantor survives at least three years after the transfer.

Do You Need Both a Will and a Trust?

A Will is the number one, bare-bones legal document everyone needs, regardless of age and estate size. A Trust can also be an advantageous estate planning vehicle, depending on your goals.

Our elder law and estate planning attorney can help you or your parents establish the following:

Who is Eligible for a Veteran Pension?

Veterans may qualify for VA pension benefits if:

The veteran’s net worth excludes specific property, like the family home, car, and furniture. Currently, the maximum net worth to qualify for a veterans’ pension is $138,489.

A veteran benefits attorney can help you understand whether you or your family member are eligible for a veteran pension and guide you through the application process.

Who May Qualify for a Larger VA Pension?

Depending on age and disability status, veterans may also qualify for Age and Attendance Benefits and/or Housebound Benefits, programs that provide additional benefits. These programs target veterans who reside in nursing homes, cannot leave home without assistance, or have severely limited eyesight or other disabilities.

Like other VA programs, the veteran’s eligibility depends on asset and income thresholds. The maximum benefit amount depends on how many persons the veteran may list as dependents.

Our experienced veteran benefits planning lawyer can ensure you or your loved one are receiving the full extent of the VA pension benefits for which you qualify.

What Medical Benefits Does My Loved One Qualify for as an Older Veteran?

Veterans of all ages may qualify for the VA’s Standard Medical Benefits Package if they finished their service with an honorable discharge and meet certain length-of-duty criteria.

The package includes the following:

Any eligible veteran may enroll in the program at any time. Participants may need to make co-payments based on their income.

An experienced veteran benefits lawyer from Family First Firm can check your loved one’s eligibility for specific medical benefits.

Are Veterans Eligible for Long-Term Care Coverage?

Veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare package may also qualify for home care, assisted living, and nursing home services. Like other medical benefits, long-term care may involve co-pays based on the specific services and the veteran’s income.

VA healthcare covers:

Our competent veteran benefits lawyers can counsel you on the full scope of long-term care services available to you or your loved one as an older veteran.

Does Medicaid Pay for Nursing Homes?

Medicaid recipients can receive all-inclusive care at a nursing home without paying out-of-pocket expenses. Care is not limited to room and board and on-site physician services. The all-inclusive nature of the coverage also includes laundry services, personal hygiene items, activity services, and more.

However, for Medicaid to pay for a nursing home, the person must meet eligibility requirements. Because Medicaid is generally only available to seniors over 65, other funding sources may have to be used to pay for a nursing home until Medicaid benefits become active.

When Should Someone Begin Planning for Medicaid Eligibility?

You should begin thinking of your loved ones’ plans for Medicaid eligibility as soon as possible to ensure they do not start too late or fail to meet the requirements. Planning for Medicaid eligibility should begin at least five years before age 65. Medicaid eligibility can significantly affect ongoing living expenses and a family’s financial legacy. Ask your attorney about combining estate planning and Medicaid planning.

What are the Income and Asset Requirements that Determine Medicaid Eligibility?

A person’s income and assets determine Medicaid eligibility. For the elderly who carefully planned for retirement, significant income or accumulated assets could lead to denial of Medicaid benefits, which could then cause financial woes ahead. The income and asset threshold an applicant cannot surpass is relatively low. In Florida, an “income cap state,” the current gross income limit is $2,523 per month. The state also looks at assets that could be liquidated as income.

The American Council on Aging has a preliminary Medicaid eligibility test one can take to determine if they meet the requirements.

However, this test does not account for estate planning instruments, such as trusts, that can shield income and assets from the Medicaid eligibility equation. Working with a Medicaid lawyer can help to position your loved ones to qualify for Medicaid, even if they have substantial income and assets.

Can Medicare Also Cover Nursing Home Care In Addition to Medicaid?

Elderly citizens who are “dual eligible” may have both Medicare and Medicaid. For people with Medicare only, Medicare will cover some of the cost of a nursing home.

However, Medicare coverage is limited to short-term visits only. Full coverage applies for stays of up to 20 days. After that, as the stay extends up to 100 days, the patient is responsible for a significant portion of the fees—subject to whether they have a supplemental insurance policy. From the 101st day in a facility, Medicare no longer helps with the cost. Therefore, working with a Medicaid planning attorney is critical to prepare for long-term care in a nursing home.

Does Medicaid Cover Other Long-Term Care Options?

Yes. If your loved one opts for in-home care, Medicaid can also cover the costs associated with promoting independent living.

Depending on your situation, you may prefer that a loved one stays at home as long as possible, but you may also have concerns about the costs associated with this option.

In independent living situations, Medicaid pays for:

Discuss your unique goals and concerns about Medicaid planning with your Florida Medicaid attorney.

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Orlando, FL 32804

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Family First Firm - Medicaid & Elder Law Attorneys
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715 Douglas Ave Suite# 40,
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714

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