Summer Vacation and The Special Needs Family
The lazy days of summer are upon us. The unstructured nature of the season can provide growth and insight for us and our children. Take this time to reflect on the achievements of the past school year. How has he/she changed since last summer? Are there activities or outings that are now tolerated that last year were a challenge? … and vice versa. Consider current Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. What challenges are you seeing that could be added as additional goals? Socially, academically and self-help skills? Be sure to ask for input from camp counselor or your child’s Extended School Year (ESY) placement.
Documenting and tracking your concerns has never been easier. One of my favorite tracking apps is “Birdhouse for Special Needs.” This app allows you to log and chart everything from meltdown triggers to hours slept. It’s easy quick and helps keep you on track. You can even invite other caretakers to view and log their observations. With several choices available, the key is finding what works best for you and your family. With this clearer view on your child’s progress, the next step may be to consider an updated Individual Educational Evaluation. While there is no set schedule for private evaluations a good rule of thumb is every 1-3 years or when a parent has concerns regarding placement or progress.
For more information on how to provide your family with direction, advocacy and knowledge please contact Connie Sproul Bonarigo, with Navigating Autism in NJ, LLC firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-788-6711.
Finding the Advantage in Supplemental Income (SSI) Benefits
How to Qualify Your Child for Government Benefits Using Tax Strategies
If you plan correctly when your special needs child turns 18 (or 21 if a full time student), your child will be able to have access to both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. However, if you do not correctly plan, your child may not qualify to receive those benefits when he or she needs them most. The main goal is to make sure your special needs child’s assets stay below the SSI countable resource limit. Currently, the limit for countable resources is $2,000 and $3,000 if the special needs individual is single and married, respectively. Most of these benefits usually are not available to your child until they become adults, because your resources will count as the child’s resources and thereby diqualify them from receving SSI and Medicaid. When your child reaches 18 (or 21), then your resources no longer count as your child’s. What you want to avoid is allowing your child to accumulate too much wealth under their name in the early stages of their life and thereby disqualify them from government benefits that they deserve to benefit from when they become adults. Below are tax strategies you can implement to ensure your child stays below the applicable limit in both the early and later stages of their life.
Supplemental or Special Needs Trusts
Establish a supplemental or special needs trust. Any money and earnings in the trust if properly structured will not count towards your child’s countable resource limit. A supplemental or special needs trust provides for the needs of your disabled child that are not covered by government needs-based programs. You would make a gift to the supplemental or special needs trust either while you are living or upon your passing as directed by your will to set up the trust. Then you would appoint a trustee whom you can trust to provide the needs of your special needs child.
ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) account
Set up an ABLE account. Up to $100,000 put into the account will not jeopardize your child from receiving SSI Benefits. With an ABLE account, you set up a savings account with a state and designate a beneficiary of the account who is disabled or blind. You can make contributions up to the current annual gift exclusion amount (In 2016, $14,000) to the account. The amounts contributed are tax free. As long as the amounts you withdraw from the account are used to pay only for qualified disability expenses, the distributions are tax free.
Talk to your loved ones interested in providing for your special needs child about gifting in a way so as not to taint your special needs child’s eligibility for government benefits later on life. For example instead of gifting directly to your child encourage them to gift directly to your child’s special needs trust or to their ABLE account.
How can I learn more about how to qualify my child for government benefits using tax strategies? Please contact Alyssa Rausch, CPA, MBA at Smolin, Lupin & Co., PA. email@example.com or 862-881-4748.
Alyssa Rausch, CPA, MBA, is a tax manager at Smolin, Lupin & Co., PA. She is a member of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org or at 862-881-4748.