Promoting Independence Through The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2015

by Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, Esq.

A special needs trust is designed to provide supplemental support for a person with a disability, as defined by the Social Security Administration, without jeopardizing means-tested public benefits. Specifically, a trust established pursuant to the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA 93), is a non-countable resource for public benefit eligibility.

Under current law, first-party special needs trusts established pursuant to section (d)(4)(A) of OBRA 93, must be established by the beneficiary’s parent, grandparent, guardian, or court. The major problem with such a requirement is that the beneficiary, regardless of capacity, is prohibited from establishing his or her own trust. Instead, the beneficiary is dependent upon the assistance of family members, who may be unable or unwilling to assist, or otherwise spend a significant amount of money requesting the court to establish the trust.

The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2015 (the “Act”) is designed to make the establishment of a first-party special needs trust easier by amending the list of people authorized to establish the trust to include the individual with special needs. On September 9, 2015, by a unanimous vote, the Act passed the United State Senate. The United States House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Health are scheduled to  hold a hearing entitled Improving the Medicaid Program for Beneficiaries on Friday September 18, 2015 at 9:00 ET. During this hearing, the subcommittee will review and hear testimony on four pieces of legislation, including the Act. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (“NAELA”), an organization to which many of our attorneys belong, had been advocating the passage of similar legislation for a number of years. The Hook Law Center joins NAELA in encouraging people to contact their House Representative to support the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act.

Hook Law Center is currently the only law firm in Hampton Roads that has a member in the Special Needs Alliance, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with special needs, in addition to their families and the professionals who assist them. We often work with individuals and personal injury attorneys to preserve funds without jeopardizing public benefit eligibility. If you or someone you know could benefit from a special needs trust, please contact us.

Kit Kat

Ask Kit Kat: Disaster Preparedness

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what you can tell us about disaster preparedness and pets? The wildfires in California and flash floods in Utah recently have brought this issue to everyone’s mind.

Kit Kat: Yes, it’s tragic, but many people had to suddenly abandon their properties, and leave pets behind. Sometimes, there’s just no way around this, but there are some things you can do ahead of time which may put you and your pet in a better position should disaster strike unexpectedly. By the way, September is Disaster Preparedness Month. 62% of Americans have pets, so this is no small problem. When Hurricane Katrina hit, 44% of the people who refused to evacuate, did so because they didn’t want to abandon their pets.

Here’s what to do according to ASPCA, and for more details, you can go to their website at http://www.aspca.org. However, here’s some of things they recommend: 1) Have your pet identified through microchip or a collar with critical information. 2) Keep current photos of your pet in case one goes missing. 3) Learn in advance those shelters, motels, etc. that are pet-friendly in your locale. 4) Have emergency first-aid supplies, food, and bottled water ready to take with you at a moment’s notice. 5) Have enough pet carriers available to meet your needs, especially for cats and small dogs. 6) Bring blankets or old towels for their bedding. Unless it is a large animal like a horse, try not to leave your pet behind. Your pet is an intelligent being, but it does not have the capability to plan ahead. You must do that for them. (http://www.aspca.org/print/blog/disaster-preparedness-month-take-three-actions-protect-your-pets)(September 1, 2015)

Upcoming Seminars

  • October 9, 2015Andrew H. Hook will be part of a panel discussion at the 2015 Art of Healthy Aging Forum & Expo on Friday, October 9, 2015, at the  Virginia Beach Convention Center, 100 19th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451.  The forum & expo runs from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 until September 30th (limited seating). $25 at the doorTo register for this event, please click registration.
  • October 20, 2015ATTENTION PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS: You are invited to attend a special 1/2 day conference at the Westin Hotel in Virginia Beach centering on ERISA subrogation, incapacitated adults and settlement trusts. Speakers will include Andrew H. Hook and Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, attorneys from Hook Law Center, speaking on Incapacitated Adults and what you should know; Steve Lester and David Place from Synergy Settlements speaking on ERISA subrogation; and a panel discussion on settlement trusts to include James Creel from First Capital Surety & Trust Company. 3 CLE credits can be earning by attending this FREE seminar, Elder Law Considerations for the Personal Injury Attorney.” Come learn about issues you, as a personal injury attorney, should be considering! Conference hours are 8am – 12:30pm and include a complimentary breakfast buffet at 8am.  Registration is open until October 10, 2015. Register by calling 877.242.0022 and ask for Marci or 757.399.7506 and ask for Debbie. Space is limited so register TODAY!
  • October 26, 2015Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro will be speaking at the National Business Institute’s seminar on The Probate Process from Start to Finish in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.