IF THE PAST FEW MONTHS HAVE TAUGHT US ANYTHING, IT’S THAT OUR WORLD CAN CHANGE IN AN INSTANT. We have suddenly been confronted by a health risk that called into question whether or not our affairs were in order. Would our loved ones be protected if something happened?
Begley Law Group has been helping clients answer this question for over 80 years. As a leader in elder and disability law, asset protection and estate planning, Begley Law Group has one of the most esteemed reputations in the legal community. Attorneys have participated in lectures and published law documents widely read in the industry—Tom Begley, CELA, has written five law books—and each one plays an active role in local and state bar associations and the pursuit of continuing education credits.
But more than their pedigree is the level of empathy each attorney has for their clients. This is especially true when protecting the quality of life of those who are elderly or who have special needs.
“We’re heavily invested in customer service, and we’re trained in the methods of the Ritz-Carlton. When people call, we want to take that call quickly,” Begley says. “And we listen. We want to understand their needs and approach them with compassion.”
Disability law has been in Begley’s wheelhouse since he first started practicing some 57 years ago. He was the founding general manager of the Special Needs Alliance, a national organization of leading attorneys specializing in special needs planning and special needs trusts. When his niece was born with special needs he found himself helping his sister navigate the quagmire of programs and benefits available. In the process they discovered that if his niece was left an inheritance it could kick her off of her Medicaid benefits. Now, families can create specific special needs trusts to protect their assets and their loved ones.
“If money is left outright to disabled children, they will not be eligible for public benefits such as SSI (supplemental security income), Medicaid, federally assisted housing, SNAP benefits, etc.,” Begley says. For parents with disabled children, he recommends a third-party special needs trust. “If an inheritance is in a third-party trust, the child can retain eligibility for government benefits.”
If there are multiple children, parents often divide the money evenly, but Begley advises parents with special needs children to consider a budget and what that child may need over their lifetime. A life insurance policy that pays into the trust can help make up any shortfall, and the child would only be able to take out up to 4 percent annually to ensure the money lasts.
Begley Law Group’s services also include estate and trust administration and litigation and guardianship, handled by partner Ethan Ordog, Esq., with assistance from Lea Emily Thierman, Esq. Partner Joellen Meckley, Esq., concentrates her practice in elder law, estate planning, estate administration, special needs planning and guardianship.
Meckley, who has a masters in health finance and management, began her career managing a nursing home in Baltimore, Maryland. Like Begley, this personal experience influenced her path as an attorney. “I learned a long time ago how to interact with people on a personal level. Elder law is never just a legal issue. People are struggling with health and disabilities—complicated issues—and it’s important to help them plan comprehensively,” she says.
“The biggest threat to a person’s estate and the legacy they leave is the potential cost of long-term care,” says Meckley. “We want to look at how we can help shelter some portion of those assets and ensure, no matter what, that even in the worst-case scenario, something can be set aside for those we love.”
One of the simplest techniques is to look at the family home, which is usually the most valuable asset and typically paid off. Meckley explains that transferring the home to a trust would protect it from being used for long-term care expenses.
“Planning early allows us to use these techniques for the best outcome,” she says. “There are rules in place for transferring and protecting assets. If you’re not cautious, you can run afoul of rules that can prevent you from accessing public benefits. Prudent transfers ensure you can maintain the assets in your name while ensuring you also receive the quality care you need.”
Older parents who have a disabled child should also be aware of ways to protect themselves and their child. “Within the context of Medicaid planning for long-term care, there are special rules in place for older adults who have disabled children. Assets can be transferred even in a crisis, without penalty,” she says. “Sometimes we can transfer directly and others we use a special needs trust. Ultimately, we never want to jeopardize the adult child’s opportunity to have public benefits.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly scary for those with elderly loved ones, as well as those with special needs. Advocates like the team at Begley Law Group can help find solutions and navigate these uncertain times, ensuring the people you hold most dear maintain their quality of life.
Begley Law Group, PC
509 S. Lenola Road | Building 7 | Moorestown
(800) 533-7227 | BegleyLawGroup.com
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 4 (June 2020).
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