08-01-2019 Columns


Can your family benefit from a Special Needs Trust?

If you have a child or another family member with disabilities, you obviously have concerns and questions. How can you help your loved one achieve the greatest quality of life possible? Can you arrange for adequate services? What’s the best way to pay for them? Can you get some financial help? Fortunately, you are not alone. Your disabled family member may well be eligible for several government programs. But these programs won’t cover everything, so you may want to help close the gaps. Yet, some government benefits impose eligibility restrictions based on the level of assets or resources available to the recipient, which means the financial help you’re willing to provide could backfire – unless you establish a special needs trust. A special needs trust allows the beneficiary – your family member – to receive government benefits while still receiving funds from the trust. You, as the donor, supply these funds, while a trustee holds and administers them according to your wishes. Generally speaking, the beneficiary can’t use the trust for basic support – food, clothing and shelter – or to receive benefits that can be provided by the government. Instead, the trust can be used to provide specialized therapy, special equipment, recreational outings and other items. When considering a special needs trust, you’ll need to explore several issues, but it’s especially important to focus on these two: Naming a trustee – You could name a trusted family member or friend as a trustee. This choice works well for many people, but it does have the potential to cause familial conflicts. Another possibility is to name a trust company, which can provide professional management, expertise and continuity of administration. You can even name an individual and a trust company as trustees, combining the personal touch of a family member with the technical and administrative skills of a professional trustee. Funding the trust – You can fund the trust during your lifetime or have it activated upon your passing. You don’t have to be the sole donor, either – you can structure the trust so other family members can contribute to it. And a trust can be funded with many types of assets – securities (stocks and bonds), IRA proceeds, insurance death benefits and more. While it’s important you understand the fundamentals of a special needs trust, it’s not a do-it-yourself endeavor. In fact, creating this trust can be complex. For one thing, there are a few different types of special needs trusts, so you’ll need to determine which is right for your needs. Also, it’s important to be familiar with the requirements of various federal, state and local benefit programs for people with disabilities. For these and other reasons, it’s essential to work with a local estate-planning professional who knows the regulations in your area. You may also need to bring in your financial professional, who can help with the funding elements of a special needs trust, and who can possibly recommend a trust company, if you choose to use one. You’ll do anything you can to make life better for a disabled child or family member – and one tool you have at your disposal is a special needs trust. Consider looking into one soon. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your estate-planning attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.


A clean energy future without the politics

It is easy to see clean energy as a divisive issue, but in Michigan, it is bringing Republicans and Democrats together. Recently, the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum organized a tour of Delta Solar. I joined over 20 Michigan policymakers on both sides of the aisle for a visit to this 25-megawatt solar generation facility just minutes from the State Capitol that provides power to local homes, farms, and businesses. We traveled from the Capitol on the first hydrogen fuel cell bus operating in the Midwest. The bus is nearly two times more efficient than a diesel-powered bus, with approximately 70% better fuel economy. When it comes to clean energy, a common and important concern is how it compares to existing technologies. This bus is better in every aspect I could see. With that kind of performance, we can’t ignore the opportunity to diversify our energy mix. At the Delta Solar facility, we got to see the panels and tracking equipment up close and get a thorough briefing from the facility operators. In its first year, it produced 44,200-megawatt-hours of renewable energy — enough to power more than 4,200 homes. Like the bus we rode, this emission-free facility is good for the air we breathe and operates at a lower cost than traditional energy sources. My tour showed me that good, reliable, clean energy options are already available right here in Michigan. I believe we should continue working towards an all of the above energy strategy to heat our homes, fuel our automobiles, and power our state. When we rely on a single source, we leave ourselves open to disaster. We cannot allow an accident or a foreign country to stifle our access to the energy our families depend on when we now have the ability to prevent it. Technologies that were once expensive or unreliable have matured into real, competitive alternatives that can function just as well as — and in some cases, better than — our dominant energy sources. And when that’s the case, it’s something Republicans and Democrats can get behind.