California Special Needs Trusts

What is a Special Needs Trust?

A Special Needs Trust is a legal document that is intended to benefit a disabled individual.  A Special Needs Trust is frequently a separate document, but it can also be included in a trust or a will.  The Special Needs Trust is intended to provide supplemental and extra care over and above that which the government already provides to the disabled individual.  A Special Needs Trust must be irrevocable.

Who needs a Special Needs Trust?

A Special Needs Trust can be best for someone who lacks the mental capacity to handle their own financial affairs.  A Special Needs Trust can be especially helpful for people with special needs (mental or physical) who would lose public benefits (such as Medicare, Medicaid-called Medi-Cal in California, or SSI) as a result of receiving an inheritance or receiving the proceeds from a lawsuit.

A Special Needs Trust can help protect the disabled person from being taken advantage of and losing the money that is intended for their benefit.

At Wolfberg & Wolfberg, P.C. we have extensive experience in working with Regional Centers in California.  A Regional Center provides services and support to individuals with developmental disabilities under contract with the California Department of Developmental Services.  Someone who receives services through a Regional Center may be an excellent candidate for a Special Needs Trust.

Protect Beneficiaries with Special Needs

A Special Needs Trust is intended to help a trust beneficiary continue receiving public benefits while at the same time being able to use assets in the Special Needs Trust to supplement those public benefits.

Many people with special needs receive public benefits in the form of medical benefits, vocational aid, and direct financial assistance.  Much of the assistance provided to a person with special needs is “need based” and could be terminated if the person with special needs is determined to have the financial means to support himself or herself.

Inheritance Funded Special Needs Trust

If you are preparing your estate plan and you will be leaving some of your estate to a person who receives public benefits because of some mental or physical disabilities then you must think about setting up a Special Needs Trust to ensure the person with special needs will be able to use of property that is intended to be held for their benefit.  At Wolfberg & Wolfberg, P.C. we have helped family members by preparing their estate planning documents to help relatives with special needs.

Litigation Funded Special Needs Trust

Special needs trusts are frequently used to receive an inheritance but they may also be helpful to protect lawsuit settlement proceeds.  The proceeds from a personal injury judgment or settlement may be used to fund a special needs trust.  Personal injury victims who have suffered debilitating injuries are able to establish a Special Needs Trust with money recovered as a result of their personal injury claim.  A Special Needs Trust must be established prior to the settlement or resolution of the personal injury claim; the beneficiary is not permitted to establish the Special Needs Trust after receiving the settlement proceeds.

Who will be Responsible for Distributing Money in the Special Needs Trust?

The Special Needs Trust will be managed by someone called a Trustee.  The Trustee may be a family member or a friend of the beneficiary and may even be appointed by a Court.  Great care should be taken to select a trustee that you can trust to put the needs of the person with special needs before anyone else’s needs.

We are here to Help

If you believe that someone who will inherit from your estate should have a special needs trust then you must establish a special needs trust now.  A special needs trust must be established before the person with special needs receives an inheritance or a personal injury settlement.

Contact Wolfberg & Wolfberg, P.C. for More Information

Please contact us if you have questions about whether someone you love would benefit from a Special Needs Trust.  Please contact us now for a Free Consultation.  We are here to help.

Good reasons to have car insurance

California Law Requires you to have Auto Liability Insurance

If you drive in California then you must have auto liability insurance with bodily injury limits of at least $15,000/$30,000 and property damage limits of at least $5,000 per accident.  Please see our recent blog post explaining the various types of car insurance coverage.

Pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 16028, operators of vehicles in California must provide proof of liability insurance when lawfully asked by law enforcement.

Subject to California Vehicle Code Section 16029, if you do not have liability insurance then you may be fined $100 to $200 for your first violation and $200 to $500 for any subsequent violations.  Other penalties include having your driver’s license suspended and the car you were driving (even if it isn’t your car!) can be impounded.  In order to get the car out of impound, the owner of the car will be required to pay any towing and storage fees.

You should have more than the Minimum Insurance Limits

Depending on your financial situation, you should consider purchasing more than minimum required limits.  Even seemingly minor accidents can require accident victims to go to the emergency room where medical expenses can be significant.

You should have Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

We strongly encourage you to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance coverage in the event that you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver.  You will not be able to recover any money to pay for your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering if the at-fault driver does not have any insurance and you do not have Uninsured Motorist coverage.

Accident Victims must have Liability Insurance to Recover Pain and Suffering Damages

If you are injured in a car accident and you do not have any car insurance then you may be unable to recover any money from the at-fault driver or their insurance company for your pain and suffering damages.  You can still recover for your actual medical expenses and property damage.

California Civil Code Section 3333.4 restricts owners and operators of motor vehicles injured in a motor vehicle accident from recovering for their pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non-pecuniary damages if the injured person did not have liability insurance as required by the Financial Responsibility Laws of the State of California.

Exceptions to California Vehicle Code Section 3333.4

There are two exceptions to Civil Code Section 3333.4 that allow injured people who do not have insurance to recover such damages.  You may still be able to collect for your pain and suffering if your injuries were caused by a fleeing felon or by a drunk driver.

We are happy to offer you a free consultation regarding your car insurance to make sure that you have the proper types of insurance coverage.  Please contact us with your personal injury questions.

Full Coverage Auto Insurance

What is Full Coverage

When I ask clients what kind of insurance they have the most common response that I get is that they have full coverage.  Many people are confident that they have purchased adequate automobile insurance but in reality when a client says that they have full coverage they really mean that they have obtained the minimum insurance required by California law.

Here is a list of various types of automobile insurance and a brief description of each:

Liability Insurance:    This coverage protects you if you are sued as a result of a motor vehicle accident.  Your Liability Limits are the maximum amounts that your insurance company can be required to pay if it is concluded that you are at fault for an accident.

The minimum Liability Limits required for drivers in California are $15,000/$30,000.  The first number represents the maximum benefit that any one victim could recover from your insurance company and the second number represents the maximum combined amount that your insurance company will pay to the victims of any one accident.

The amount of insurance coverage that you need really depends on your personal situation and we will address that in a future post on this Blog.

Property Damage:    There are two types of property damage coverages, comprehensive and collision.  Property damage coverage typically has a deductible, which is the amount of money that your damages must exceed before your insurance company will start to pay for your damages.  The higher the amount of your deductible the lower you will pay for your property damage coverage.

Comprehensive:    This coverage pays to repair or replace your vehicle and personal property inside your vehicle if it was damaged or lost as a result of fire, theft, or vandalism.

Collision:  This coverage will cover damage to:

  1. Your vehicle if your vehicle it is hit by another vehicle.
  2. Another person’s vehicle if you cause damage to that vehicle.
  3. Your vehicle if you are hit by or run into an object including trees, walls, curbs, etc.  This coverage will repair your vehicle regardless of fault.

Medical Payments:  This coverage will pay for your medical expenses if you or your passengers get injured in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who is at fault.  You or your household family members can also be covered as pedestrians who are injured by a motor vehicle.  Medical Payments coverage is particularly helpful for people who do not have medical insurance.

Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist

Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist Bodily Injury:  This coverage will cover you for bodily caused by another motorist who does not carry liability insurance.  It may also provide coverage when your damages exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage.

Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist Property Damage:  This coverage allows the driver to claim for compensation to damages to their vehicle.  If you have collision coverage then the Uninsured Motorist Property Damage coverage will cover the amount of your deductible.

Accident Investigation Form

We have prepared an Accident Investigation Form to help you get all the information that you may need if you are in an accident. Please print it up and keep in your car in case of an accident.

Contact Wolfberg & Wolfberg, P.C. for More Information

Please call us if you have questions about the different types of insurance coverage.  Please call us if you would like a complimentary review of your automobile insurance coverage. We are here to help.

California Small Claims Court Limits Set to Increase

Under current California law a person filing a case in Small Claims court may demand a maximum of $7,500.00 in damages.  Effective January 1, 2012, the jurisdictional limits for many cases filed in Small Claims Court will increase from $7,500 to $10,000.

The revisions to California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 116.221 and 116.224 contain an important exception for personal injury victims whose injuries were caused by a driver with automobile insurance.  Plaintiffs injured by negligent drivers who have auto insurance will have to wait until January 1, 2015 before the Small Claims Court limits increase from $7,500 to $10,000.
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