Do You Need a Special Needs Trust?

Do You Need a Special Needs Trust?

Legal Matters

Presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning,

A common mistake we hear from individuals with disabilities is that they need a special needs trust to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. While this is true for many people, it depends on the type of disability benefits the individual is receiving. There are two types of Social Security disability benefits: SSDI (Supplemental Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income). A person receiving SSI disability benefits will need a special needs trust to hold assets that exceed the maximum limit of $2,000. A person receiving SSDI disability benefits should not need a special needs trust. The difference depends on the person’s work history.  

SSDI is based on work history. If a person has obtained 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned during the last ten years, a person should be able to qualify for SSDI disability benefits.  This means that if the person is found to be disabled, they can receive disability benefits and there are no limits on their income or assets. I often like to say that a person can be a millionaire and still receive SSDI disability benefits because it is solely based on whether the person is disabled and if they have sufficient work credits in the Social Security system. Conversely, a person that does not have the required work credits, will not be able to obtain SSDI benefits.  Instead, the individual will apply for SSI disability benefits. This issue typically applies to children who are now adults and are disabled to the point they cannot work; or, a person that has not been in the work force very much over the last ten years and does not meet the work credit requirements.

To obtain SSI, the person must prove they are disabled and meet very strict financial criteria. In other words, the person must be very poor to receive the SSI benefits. Generally, the person cannot have over $2,000 in countable assets. If this person wants to qualify for SSI and has too many assets, the person can place the assets in a special needs trust and obtain SSI and Medicaid. Work closely with your attorney to prove the type of disability benefits you are receiving so the attorney will know if a special needs trust is right for you.

Melanie Bradford Holliman

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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An Innocent Text Can Change Your Life

An Innocent Text Can Change Your Life

Legal Matters

presented by: Frank S. Buck P.C., Personal Injury

Texting and driving is as dangerous as drinking and driving. Every week news stations report on yet another car wreck with severe injuries or even death that was caused by texting and driving. These constant and heart wrenching warnings should stop us in our tracks. Yet drivers continue to ignore the risks associated with a cell phone when they take not only their eyes off the road, but their hands off the wheel as well.

The statistics of car wrecks while using a cellphone are overwhelming. A driving analytics company called Zendrive found drivers are using their phones 88% of the time they are in the car. Just a two-second distraction increases your risk of crashing by 20%. A driver going 55 mph can travel 100 yards in five seconds. If that driver is texting, that is equivalent to driving the entire length of a football field while blindfolded. One in four car accidents are caused by cell phones. A study from the University of Utah has found that people are as impaired when they drive and use a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated. Cell phone users are 5.36 times more likely to get into an accident than undistracted drivers. The U.S Department of Transportation has found that text messaging increases the risk of crash or near-crash by 23 times. According to national studies, 78% of all accidents, are caused by texting while driving. New teenage drivers are at higher risk. The fatal crash rate for teens is 3 times greater than for drivers age 20 and over.

In an effort to reduce the accidents and fatalities from cell phone use while driving, many states have banned texting and cell phone use while driving. Interestingly, many of the states that have banned cell phones have fewer motor vehicle collisions. Even the cell phone companies know the hazards of cell phone use and driving. In early 2013, the nation’s four biggest cell phone companies launched their first joint advertising campaign against texting while driving. Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile united behind AT&T’s “It Can Wait” advertising campaign, warning their customers against the misuse of their own devices.

Under Alabama law, drivers owe a duty to others on the road to drive with reasonable care. If someone drives in an unreasonable manner, such as driving distracted with a cell phone, and hits another vehicle because of it, that person is legally liable for the resultant injuries. The injured person is entitled to recover money for those injuries. Is that text or phone call worth it? It only takes one second of taking your eyes off the road for a life to be lost or forever changed. Let’s all go back to the basics of driver’s education, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel. If you must respond to a call or text, please pull over to make that call or check that text. Because of the legal issues involved in a personal injury case, please contact us if you or your loved ones are injured so we can help you.

Frank S. Buck, P.C., Attorneys at Law have been offering professional legal services and serving Alabama citizens for over 43 years.  We have experienced trial attorneys who have over 100 years of combined trial experience. You can reach us 24 hours a day at (205) 933-7533. Please call us for a free consultation.

Read more from Frank Buck at www.BirminghamChristian.com. Click on News/Family/Legal Matters

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Think Through Your Retirement Account Beneficiaries

Think Through Your Retirement Account Beneficiaries

Legal Matters 

Presented by: Community Partner Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning, www.bradfordholliman.com

 A will designates how you want your assets distributed, but the reality is that most property passes to heirs through less formal means. Joint ownership and beneficiary designations on financial accounts and real estate avoid probate and bypass the terms of your will. However, using these designations should be consistent with your overall estate plan.  A will often directs that an estate be equally divided among the decedent’s children. However, joint account ownership or beneficiary designations can actually distribute the estate unequally, or even to non-family members. Think through the following concerns carefully:

  • Name your spouse, usually.A surviving spouse may roll over an inherited retirement plan into their own plan, deferring withdrawal and minimum distributions until the spouse is 70 1/2. Non-spouse beneficiaries must take distributions immediately, basing distribution on their own presumably younger ages.
  • But not always. The spouse isn’t a good option if:
    • An incapacitated spouse can’t manage the account.
    • The spouse’s taxable estate should be minimized.
    • Due to a second marriage, you want the retirement funds to benefit your first family.
  • Consider a trust.A trust can solve these problems – providing for management in the case of an incapacitated spouse, providing estate tax planning opportunities and permitting assets to benefit a surviving spouse while being preserved for the next generation.
  • But check the trust’s key provisions for retirement assets. Key provisions are critical to ensure the spouse is treated as a “designated beneficiary” of a retirement plan. Without the key provisions, accelerated taxation may occur such as liquidating the IRA or 401K within five years of the decedent’s death, rather than stretching distributions over the beneficiary’s lifetime.
  • Consider special needs planning.Don’t cause a special needs individual to lose vital public benefits by directly naming them the beneficiary of your retirement account. Instead, name a special needs trust as the beneficiary so the trustee can manage the funds for the individual. Or, use other estate assets or life insurance rather than a retirement account for the special needs individual.
  • Keep copies of your beneficiary designation forms.Don’t count on your retirement plan administrator to maintain records, especially if you no longer work for that company.
  • But name beneficiaries! The biggest mistake of all is not naming beneficiaries at all or not updating beneficiaries after an original beneficiary passes away.

In short, while wills are important because they name a personal representative to take charge of your estate and name guardians for minor children, beneficiary designations are just as important for an estate plan.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281,www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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5 Cyber Security Safeguards Every Business Should Have

5 Cyber Security Safeguards Every Business Should Have

Business Today

Brought to you by: Community Partner Sawyer Solutions, www.sawyersolutionsllc.com

Every week you hear or read about a new hack or victim of malware. While the news focuses on large businesses, smaller companies are at just as much risk. Here are some simple things you can do to help prevent a hack to your business.

  1. Strong, Unique, Passwords. Every device should have a strong password and all your passwords should be unique. Do not reuse passwords across multiple websites. Consider using a password management tool to help create and store these unique passwords.
  2. Run Anti-virus (AV) Program. Every computer should be running one (and only one) good quality AV program. This will help prevent your computer from getting a virus and being used for illegal activities.
  3. Regularly Install Patches. Patches are used to help keep your computer up-to-date, running smoothly and securely. Make sure the update/patch is from the maker of the software you use.
  4. Use Encryption. It will help keep your data safe even if you lose a computer or thumb drive. A password to get into your system is not enough to keep people out. You need to encrypt your data as well.
  5. Consider a Firewall. Firewalls are one of your main lines of defense for keeping out bad guys. Advanced firewalls can do things like scan for viruses on your internet traffic or even detect attempts to break in and take action. Consider investing in one of these devices.

Sawyer Solutions is a technology service company that takes cyber-security seriously. We believe in talking to our clients to determine their individual needs and goals and coming up with solutions to meet those. Visit our website at SawyerSolutionsllc.com or call us at 844.4IT.PROS (844.448.7767) to schedule a free consultation.

 


-Brought to you by: Community Partner, Sawyer Solutions

We do I.T. so you don’t have to!

Complete I.T. consulting, security and managed services that are tailored to help your business excel.

www.sawyersolutionsllc.com

844-448-7767

Member www.Convenenow.com

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A Phantom Vehicle Personal Injury Claim-What is That?

A Phantom Vehicle Personal Injury Claim-What is That?

Legal Matters

presented by: Frank S. Buck P.C., Personal Injury

If you are injured when a car veers into your lane and does not actually hit your car, but still runs you off the road and causes you to crash, do you have an auto insurance claim? If you have full coverage under your automobile insurance policy, including uninsured motorist coverage, the answer is, “Yes.”

In Alabama, a phantom vehicle means the identity of the driver cannot be determined but that driver causes injury, death, or damage to another person. As in the example above, physical contact is not required between the vehicles to have a phantom vehicle claim. Alabama law allows pedestrians to also have a phantom vehicle claim if they are injured by an unknown driver. Other examples of phantom vehicle claims are a hit and run where a vehicle hits another vehicle or pedestrian, but leaves the scene of the accident, or if a driver hits something in the road that has fallen off a truck or car such as a mattress, boxes, trashcan lid, large pieces of trash, tire, air conditioning unit or any other foreign object in the road that came off a vehicle.

It is important to check with your auto insurance agent and review your policy to ensure that you have full coverage, including uninsured motorist coverage to protect yourself in case a phantom vehicle injures you. Many people in Alabama have liability automobile insurance only, but do not realize the importance of uninsured motorist coverage in case of an injury. Alabama law requires automobile insurance companies to automatically add uninsured motorist coverage to policies, unless the insured specifically rejects the uninsured motorist coverage in writing on the internet when applying for a policy. Please do not reject uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage does not cost much and can go a long way if you are injured by a phantom vehicle.

-Frank S. Buck, P.C., Attorneys at Law have been offering professional legal services and serving Alabama citizens for over 43 years.  We have experienced trial attorneys who have over 100 years of combined trial experience.  You can reach us 24 hours a day at (205) 933-7533.  Please call us for a free consultation.

Read more from Frank Buck at www.BirminghamChristian.com. Click on News/Family/Legal Matters

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Estate Planning & the New Tax Law

Estate Planning & the New Tax Law

Legal Matters

Most of the media focus regarding the new tax law Congress passed has been on how the law will change income taxes. The law also made changes to estate and gift tax rules. As with most things, there are pros and cons to the new law.

The general reader may laugh and think estate planning is irrelevant once they understand that, under the new law, a person’s estate must be over $11.18 million before their estate will pay estate taxes. For many people, the new exemption does eliminate the risk of estate taxes. Likewise, it may eliminate the risk of gift taxes because a person can use the $11.18 million exemption for lifetime gifts or estate distributions. However, this exemption is scheduled to end December 31, 2025, which may create gift and estate tax issues for people that are exempt between now and then. People need to consider the current worth, the estimated value of their estates in 2025, and whether they may have an estate tax problem in 2025 if the estate tax limits are lowered. People also should be aware that a change in the controlling political party may mean another change in the tax laws.

People with older estate plans will want to review those plans with an attorney to make sure the language works with current law. In some cases, it may even be possible to simplify the estate plan and eliminate some of the estate tax provisions that were used in the past when the estate tax exemption was much lower. People with estate plans from the time period when the estate tax exemption was $600,000 or $1 million are especially needful of plan revisions.

The new tax law does not change the strict prohibitions against gifting of Social Security and Medicaid. People trying to plan for long term care and protect assets are not free to make gifts as they please. The rules against gifting still apply and these people will continue to need legal help to establish their estate plan if their goal is asset protection. Also, the new tax law does not change the need for people to make sure their estate is distributed correctly to the people or charities they desire and does not lessen the need for durable powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney and health care directives.

It is important to review your estate plan and make certain it is up to date and able to accomplish all your goals.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Is Your Family Ready for Long Term Care?

Is Your Family Ready for Long Term Care?

Legal Matters

presented by Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

After handling elder law cases for over a decade, I can say that it is routine to see families have strong disagreements over how to take care of parents as they age. The disagreements generally come from a variety of mindsets. Sadly, I often see greed as an underlying factor. This can manifest in several ways. Here are two of the more common scenarios I see.

Example 1. Daughter has provided care for her parents for several years. She may have given up her job or significantly reduced her work hours to care for her parents. She has taken no pay for these efforts. Now, her parents are too feeble and ill to remain at home. She can no longer provide adequate care for them. However, her siblings insist that mom and dad remain at home. They also try to insist that expensive caregivers not be used and suddenly become very interested in the finances. Of course, there are instances where the caregiver child may be inappropriately depleting the parents’ assets; but, in this example, it comes down to the siblings not wanting to spend their “inheritance” to care for the parents and expect the caregiving daughter to provide caregiving for free.

Example 2. This example is similar to the first one but involves a “war” between the children of a blended family fighting over how to provide care for one or both parents/step-parents. Money can often be determined to be the root of the “war.” At times, the disagreement over healthcare is not related to money; but, to one child’s adamant denial of the parent’s condition and need for help combined with a refusal to allow the parent to have appropriate caregivers or be placed in a reputable facility that can provide the needed care.

Arguments that arise in families over providing long term care can be prevented or substantially lessened if the family has a long-term life care plan that reviews the family dynamics, income, assets, health, and overall wishes. The plan provides options for providing various forms of long-term care and the cost for the options. The parents can review their situation and make educated decisions on how things should be handled when the time for long-term care arises. Children can also go through this process and, hopefully, come to an agreement on a plan of care for parents if the parents can no longer participate in the discussion due to health conditions. A life care plan can prevent stressful arguments and enable the family to go through a difficult time with peace of mind about the actions being taken. An elder law attorney can help your family create the appropriate life care plan.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

Hear Melanie Bradford Holliman speak on the topic of Long Term Care March 7 at Brookdale University Park, Homewood. Holliman will be the featured speaker at this “Lunch & Learn,” 11am-1:30pm. CEU credits available for nurses, case managers and social workers. To learn more and register contact Leanne Messer, lmesser@brookdale.com.

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Hit and Injured by an 18-Wheeler or other Big Corporate Truck?

Hit and Injured by an 18-Wheeler or other Big Corporate Truck?

Legal Matters

presented by: Frank S. Buck P.C., Personal Injury

 What to Do to Protect Yourself

Due to the hectic demands of life, we often find ourselves on the road. Daily interstate travel brings many drivers in frequent contact with larger vehicles like 18-wheelers or semi-trailer trucks. Many truckers work lengthy hours, driving long distances hauling cargo, which can result in fatigue and distracted driving, both of which can lead to catastrophic crashes. In addition, truckers often face strict delivery deadlines, causing some to disregard speed limits. Many drivers do not realize how different a car wreck involving an 18-wheeler is from one involving two average vehicles. 18-wheeler trucks can weigh up to 80,000 lbs. which often causes serious and substantial damage to the cars involved in this crashes and sometimes fatal consequences. One in every eight automobile wreck fatalities involves a large truck like an 18-wheeler. If the past is any indication, more people will be killed in traffic accidents involving large trucks this year than have died in all the domestic commercial airline crashes over the past 45 years. Because of statistics like these, there are strict laws and regulations that apply to trucking companies and their drivers, which do not apply to non-commercial drivers. Examples of such regulations include limitations on the amount of time that truck drivers can spend driving before they take a break and what they can haul.

If you are in a wreck with an 18-wheeler, it is important to call an attorney who handles trucking collisions immediately. The trucking company will begin investigating the wreck right away with a team of experts and lawyers on the case to protect itself, so time is of the essence for you to hire an attorney to begin investigation to protect yourself.  There is valuable evidence such as black box data or other GPS recording devices from the truck that need to be preserved promptly by an experienced attorney working on your behalf. A “black box” is a recording device that is triggered by certain events to start recording important data about the truck and its movement and speed. Black box data can provide critical evidence later for an expert such as an accident reconstructionist to determine what happened in the wreck. If this data is not requested early, there is nothing preventing the trucking companies from destroying it. It is also important to document the wreck with photographs of the vehicles at the scene of the collision to show exactly what occurred. An attorney can also investigate the background of the trucking company as well as the driver. It is important to have someone who will fight for you after an 18-wheeler collision.

Frank S. Buck, P.C., Attorneys at Law have been offering professional legal services and serving Alabama citizens for over 43 years.  We have experienced trial attorneys who have over 100 years of combined trial experience.  You can reach us 24 hours a day at (205) 933-7533.  Please call us for a free consultation.

 

Read more from Frank Buck at www.BirminghamChristian.com. Click on News/Family/Legal Matters

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Common Excuses for Delaying Estate Planning

Common Excuses for Delaying Estate Planning

Legal Matters

presented by Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

  1. I’m too young to need an Estate Plan. Regardless of your age, you need an estate plan. If you are not married or do not have children, you must decide who will get your things.  In my youth, I didn’t have a lot of assets; but, I still wanted certain people to get what I had if my husband and I died together in an accident. You may not want your assets to go to parents or to siblings. You may prefer your assets to be given to one parent or to one sibling. You may want your assets to be given to friends or to charity. You have the right to decide how your assets are distributed; but, you must have an estate plan to do that. If you have children, you need an estate plan that names who will take care of your children. You do not want family members to fight over who will take them.
  2. I don’t have enough assets to need an Estate Plan. There is no magic number that suddenly deems you rich enough to need an estate plan. The key question is, “Do you have assets that are important enough to you enough you want to control who gets the assets?” If so, you need an estate plan.
  3. My spouse gets everything anyway. Without a Will or Trust, your spouse may not receive everything. Alabama law has certain requirements for how much a spouse can receive. It is entirely possible that your parents or your children may receive some portion of assets to the exclusion of your spouse.
  4. I can’t decide how to divide things up. It can be very difficult to decide how much to give to children or grandchildren; but, the danger in waiting on an estate plan is that you may die without ever deciding. If that happens, the State of Alabama gets to decide who gets your assets. Wouldn’t you prefer to make a decision that you can change later if needed instead of leaving it to chance and the State of Alabama?
  5. I can’t decide who to put in charge. If you do not make this decision, the State will make the decision for you. Talk with your estate planning attorney. You may decide to name an unrelated third party; or, you may name a family member. You can always change your nomination in the future if you later feel the person is no longer a good choice.
  6. It costs too much – It generally will cost much more if you fail to have an estate plan. An administration following intestate law is more complicated and can allow more opportunities for family to fight – all of which increases the costs.
  7. I’ll be dead so who cares – While chances are pretty good that you will not care about your assets after death, if you love your family, you can help to prevent them from having disputes and lessen the difficulties of going through a long and complicated estate process. This is especially true in blended families; or, in families with well-established personality conflicts.

It is easy to make excuses and delay preparing an estate plan. Don’t let excuses determine your family’s fate. Start working through your concerns with an experienced estate planning attorney that can help you review your choices and make decisions.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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