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Stan Klein, Director of DisabilitiesBOOKS, Inc. & Barbara D. Jackins

December 16th, 2011

We recently spoke with Stan Klein, PhD, clinical psychologist and Director of DisabilitiesBOOKS, Inc., and Barbara D. Jackins, an attorney, parent of a young adult with developmental disabilities and one of the authors of Managing a Special Needs Trust: a Guide for Trustees. The book serves as a helpful guide for anyone managing a special needs trust for a person with a mental or physical disability. It includes what trustees need to know about:

  • Public benefits programs (SSI, SSDI, Medicare, Medicaid);
  • Taxes and special needs trusts;
  • Payment of recreation, transportation and medical costs;
  • Housing subsidies;
  • Duties of a trustee.

The book was revised, updated and expanded in 2010 to cover all 50 states.

Why did you write Special Needs Trusts: A Guide for Trustees?

Barbara: We are a group of lawyers who were meeting regularly to discuss issues in our practices. As the parent of a young adult with developmental disabilities and over 30 years of experience writing and managing special needs trusts, I knew that a trust was an important piece of planning for the future because it can assure a good quality of life beyond government benefits. My colleagues were also serving families that included a person with a disability. Special needs trusts were often on our agenda. Some clients didn’t understand what to do with the trusts they had been given to manage for their disabled family members. Others were afraid to spend any money for fear of getting into trouble with the government. One client just put the money in the bank under her own name. We decided to write an instruction letter of 8-10 pages for trustees, but there was so much we thought trustees should know. The project became The Special Needs Trust Administration Manual in 2004. Then, in 2010, it was updated to cover and apply to all 50 states.

Do people need a lawyer for a special needs trust?

Barbara: You need a lawyer to write the trust. It helps to have a lawyer at every stage of the process. Folks need to remember that someone—a relative, friend or client—is depending on them to run the trust properly and look after their interests. Often people with disabilities have very little—just an SSI check and Medicaid insurance. They are completely dependent on these benefits and can’t afford to lose them. For public benefit reasons, it’s essential to have an attorney in the state where you are running the trust; there can be subtle differences in the way these programs are managed in each state and even in different regions within the state. It’s best to have a local person who knows the ins-and-outs for your geographic area.

For more information about Managing a Special Needs Trust: a Guide for Trustees, visit www.disabilitiesbooks.com.

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Advance Planning Critical to Making POA and Health Care Proxy Comply with Privacy Laws

December 6th, 2011

Many individuals are not aware that the privacy act they sign at a doctor’s office can have a big effect on their future health needs. Should a person become ill or incapacitated, and their spouse or loved one is not named as a patient’s representative, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not allow access to an individual’s medical records to unauthorized people. An experienced elder law attorney can help can individuals make sure they have the right legal documents created to prevent these issues from happening. Taking the time to create these documents early on is advised. An attorney will create a health care proxy with a HIPAA clause and a power of attorney (POA) document to establish who is the personal representative that can access medical records and make health care decisions. This is especially important if the POA is a “springing” POA that only gets used when an individual becomes incapacitated. An attorney will help make sure the right HIPAA release forms are created and disclosure of medical records will not be an issue in the years to come.

Littman Krooks LLP counsels individuals and families to plan for their health care wishes and financial matters as part of a comprehensive estate plan. Our New York City, White Plains and Fishkill estate planning attorneys and elder law attorneys are accomplished in asset preservation, trusts, and government benefits.

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