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.

New legislation offers future without robocalls

We are one step closer to being free from the burden of robocalls! This past week, I voted for and the House passed the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act which will provide the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) new tools to end robocalls and direct them to issue rules to protect consumers from calls they didn’t agree to receive. Carriers will also be required to implement a call-authentication tool and offer call blocking services to consumers free of charge. I am proud to co-sponsor this bipartisan legislation to end robocalls once and for all.

So far this year, 25 billion robocalls have been placed throughout the nation, including an estimated 110 million robocalls in southwest Michigan alone. Enough is enough. The American people should no longer be burdened and scammed by these pesky calls. I was pleased to see this legislation pass through the House, and I’d encourage my colleagues in the Senate to pass it quickly so we can send it to the President’s desk. I’m sure we can all agree that we are ready for a future without annoying robocalls interrupting our daily lives.

To learn more about other important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or visit my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Hepatitis A prevention

In 2018, Michigan experienced a significant outbreak of hepatitis A across the state. Some areas of Michigan, especially southeast counties, are still considered to be in an outbreak of hepatitis A, given the large numbers of active cases. Hepatitis A is a serious, highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found in the feces (poop) of people with hepatitis A. You can get hepatitis A by consuming contaminated food or water, during sex, or just by living with an infected person. Illness can appear 15-50 days after exposure and you can be sick for several weeks. In some cases, people can die. Although not all people infected with hepatitis A experience illness, symptoms can include: nausea and vomiting, belly pain, feeling tired, fever, loss of appetite, yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, pale-colored feces (poop), and joint pain. There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of hepatitis A transmission. Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable illness. While the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended as a part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule, most adults have not been vaccinated and may be susceptible to the hepatitis A virus. The best way to reduce the risk of getting hepatitis A is to get vaccinated with two doses of hepatitis A vaccine. It is also recommended to wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before preparing meals for yourself and others. The public health response has included increased healthcare awareness efforts, public notification and education, and outreach with vaccination clinics for high-risk populations. No common sources of food, beverages, or drugs have been identified as a potential source of infection. Transmission appears to be through direct person-to-person spread and illicit drug use. Those with history of injection and non-injection drug use, homelessness or transient housing, and incarceration are thought to be at greater risk in this outbreak setting. Notably, this outbreak has had a high hospitalization rate. To find more information, visit www.bchdmi.org.

August is Family Fun Month

Family Fun Month is celebrated each year during the month of August. It is a great time to get out and experience new and exciting adventures with family and friends alike. In the 1950s, Michigan license plates were adorned with the famous “water wonderland” branding, and for good reason. Our beautiful state is home to 11,000 inland lakes, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams, and the longest freshwater coastline in America. In fact, no matter where you are in Michigan, you’re never more than six miles from a body of water. That means you’re just minutes from great fishing opportunities, and what better reason to go than Take an Adult Fishing Day on Saturday, Aug. 3. This annual event encourages kids and parents to plan a fishing trip and bond in the great outdoors. Check out michigan.gov/fishing and look for the Family Friendly Fishing Waters link in the Where to Fish section. If fishing is not your thing, Southwest Michigan also offers numerous water trails for kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. Miles and miles of streams meander through woodlands, wetlands and other natural features, providing families excellent opportunities to have fun outside. Be sure to check out www.michiganwater trails.org/southwest.asp. Lastly, if your family prefers a drier escape, what better way to spend a day than at a local county fair? The 21st Senate District is home to three great fairs in Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph counties. For more information about each fair, visit Berrien County Youth Fair at https://bcyf.us/; Cass County Fair at www.mycasscountyfair.com/, and the St. Joseph County Grange Fair at http://centrevillefair.com/. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov.