Q&A: Keeping a bequest from doing harm

Dear Liz: I am leaving a good friend a bequest in my will. He receives government benefits, including disability, Supplemental Security Income and Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid). I am beginning to be concerned that if he inherits the money, it could mess him up more than help him. Is there a way to leave someone like my friend a bequest without jeopardizing the various benefits they now receive?

Answer: You’ll want an attorney experienced in “special needs trusts” to help you put language into your estate plan that can help shelter this money and protect your friend’s benefits.

Your concern is well founded because a direct inheritance could cause him to lose income and health coverage. SSI and Medi-Cal are both “means tested” programs that require people to have less than $2,000 in assets. All too often, well-meaning friends and relatives leave direct bequests that have the unintended consequence of separating the recipients from vital services they need to survive.

Social Security statements make a comeback

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailUntil a few years ago, Social Security sent annual statements to just about everybody who was still working to let them know what they could expect to receive in retirement, survivor and disability benefits (minus a 25% or so haircut if Congress never gets its act together to fix the system). Those statements got axed by budget cuts, but now Congress wants them resumed.

Here’s the scoop from Reuters columnist Mark Miller:

Starting this September, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will resume mailings at five-year intervals to workers who have not signed up to view their statements online, an agency spokesman told Reuters. The statements will be sent to workers at ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60, he said, adding the agency would continue to promote use of the online statements.

We won’t be getting these in the Weston household, since we signed up for online accounts. (If you decide to go that route, note that some people have had trouble setting up their Social Security accounts because they have security freezes on their credit reports at Experian, the bureau that Social Security uses to verify identity. Investment News columnist Mary Beth Franklin says you’ll have to unfreeze your report, or visit a Social Security office in person with a government-issued ID to set up an online account.)

Social Security tends to be a pretty vague concept for most people until they start closing in on retirement age–or they’re unlikely enough to need its survivor or disability benefits. But the system contributes half or more of most people’s retirement income, so it’s worth knowing what you’ve been promised. Perhaps knowing might even inspire you to lean on your lawmakers to get the system’s problems fixed while there’s still time.