Estate Planning. This refers to steps individuals or couples take to direct what will happen to their money and other assets after death. One aspect of future planning, this process is helpful for people in all types of financial situations. Most people want to direct how their money or assets will be distributed, minimize taxes as well as choose who will care for their minor children. Your parents may name people who will provide support for you. They may accomplish this by setting up a plan that includes a will, letter of intent, special needs trust and/or other pertinent documents.
Note: Your family should seek an attorney who understands not only estate planning issues but who also is knowledgeable about government benefits and understands the needs of people with disabilities.
Government benefits. Both financial assistance and health care benefits are very important for people with disabilities. Many parents think that they should not leave money to their child with a disability or their child will lose public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. Please discuss this with your lawyer, as money left outright to a child could jeopardize benefits if assets are above the statutory threshold.
The fact that someone is receiving benefits should be incentive to begin planning. A plan can ensure that a person keeps needed benefits and is able to use the additional assistance from family to purchase items that government benefits do not cover to enrich his/her quality of life.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE) states that its purpose is to (1) encourage and assist individuals and families in saving private funds for the purpose of supporting individuals with disabilities to maintain health, independence, and quality of life; and (2) provide secure funding for disability-related expenses of beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurance, title XVI (Supplemental Security Income) and title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources.
What else do you need to know about the ABLE Act? Michael Morris, Executive Director of National Disability Institute, gives us six steps for ABLE account planning in 2015.
Source: Planning Now: A Guide for Parents of Children and Adults with Developmental Disabilities
Disability Rights Florida offers this comprehensive checklist to help you think about the necessary changes
Turning 18.org offers many services to families with individuals with disabilities as they plan for the future.
ABLE Accounts, which are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families, were created as a result of the passage of the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 or better known as the ABLE Act. The beneficiary of the account is the account owner, and income earned by the accounts will not be taxed. Contributions to the account, which can be made by any person (the account beneficiary, family, friends Special Needs Trust or Pooled Trust), must be made using post-taxed dollars and will not be tax deductible for purposes of federal taxes; however, some states may allow for state income tax deductions for contributions made to an ABLE account.
Step Up For Students is a state-approved nonprofit scholarship funding organization that helps administer five scholarships for Florida schoolchildren: the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) and the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) for lower-income families, the Gardiner Scholarship for children with certain special needs, the Hope Scholarship for public school students who are bullied or victims of violence and the Reading Scholarship Accounts for public school students in third through fifth grade who struggle with reading.
Agency for Persons with Disabilities serves Floridians with developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, Spina Bifida, Prader-Willi Syndrome and Phelan-McDermid syndrome. Assists individuals with their application to receive Medicaid Waiver funding. Provides home and community-based services waiver, family and supported living waiver, Consumer Directed Care Plus and living facilities for people with developmental disabilities.
The Florida Department of Children and Families determines eligibility and ongoing case management of food assistance (food stamps), temporary cash assistance and Medicaid for families with children or older adults who are blind or disabled. Click here for Florida programs and services for people with disabilities.
The Social Security Administration manages applications for disabilities (SSI, SSDI). Provides information regarding benefits on a walk-in or appointment basis.
Here is an overview of the application process for disability benefits if you are applying for a child under 18 years of age
For people over 18 years of age but who were diagnosed before 22 years of age you can find an overview for Disability benefits here
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program that helps people who have physical or mental disabilities get or keep a job. VR mission is to help people with disabilities find meaningful careers. They offer career counseling, financial assistance with tuition and job counseling.
Alpert Jewish Family & Children’s Service Life Planning Program offers educational seminars, individual consultations, advocacy and emotional support to families who have a family member with any type of disability, including intellectual/developmental disabilities, mental illness and TBI. The program assists families with making viable and appropriate future plans for their family members.
Alpert JFS’ Pooled Trust allows disabled individuals and seniors to place income and or assets that are over government benefit limit requirements for Medicaid into the trust, so that they can qualify for much needed government benefits and be instantly eligible.
The Arc of South Florida serves the over 1,000 Miami-Dade County citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arc of South Florida provides a variety of programs and services over the life span from therapy, adult day programs, housing, and life planning.
The Hebrew Free Loan Association of South Florida, Inc. (HFLA), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and offers interest-free loans to Jewish individuals and families in need and who may not qualify for normal loan resources. HFLA personal loans of up to $5,000 provide financial assistance for situations such as but not limited to emergencies, medical and dental expenses, car and housing repairs, life-cycle events, early childhood and continuing adult education, divorce, immigration costs, victims of domestic violence, mortgage and rental costs, etc.
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