You will not lose benefits IF you take the proper precautions. Your lawyer should have advised you about setting up a Special Needs Trust, or Pooled Trust. These trusts allow you to have unlimited monies and preserve your ability to get income/asset based benefits such as, Medicaid; SSI; SSDI; food stamps; certain housing programs; etc. Pooled trusts are generally for smaller settlements. Full special needs trusts are more individualized. I have set them up for clients with very large recoveries, even multi-million dollar recoveries and preserved their Medicaid benefits.. I don’t want a client blaming me if they lose their benefits. For that reason (and because I think it is important), if my clients do not want to set one up, I insist they sign our form called the “Client’s waiver of special needs trust and acknowledgment of attorney advice”. Ask your lawyer about how to set one up and explain how they work. If you need more information on how they work you can Google, “Florida pooled trusts” or “Florida special needs trusts”. But use that for information purposes only. If your lawyer can not, or for some unexplainable reason, will not help you with this, let us know and I or someone on AVVO can explain how it works and can steer you in the right direction.
This answer is a public service and not an attempt to solicit business. Jonathan Groff’s practice is devoted to all aspects of personal injury litigation throughout Florida. He has a “10.0 Superb” rating from AVVO and is rated “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell. However, this reply should NOT be considered a legal opinion of your case / inquiry. At this time I do not have sufficient factual/legal documentation to give a complete answer to your question and there may be more to the issues you raise then I have set out in my brief reply. Further, unless your matter concerns Florida law, I am not licensed to practice or give specific legal advice in your state.
'Special Needs Trusts' are highly individualized and specific to the individual needs of the particular client. I am glad that your question is posed as an "IF", meaning that at this time that the potential for a settlement may be contemplated possibly in the future so that there is some time now long before considering signing a release or negotiating a settlement to put the proper trust language in place.
If you do not have an attorney at this time it will well worth your while at this time to retain one to review and implement proper protection.
My office handles personal injury and accident cases in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. There are procedural and legal differences between our states. However the general concepts discussed here are relatively universal across the U.S.
I assume that you have not yet received this settlement. Assuming you have an attorney, your attorney will need to settle any outstanding Medicaid liens. The proceeds which come in your name will affect your eligibility requirement for food stamps. It may also affect your Medicaid eligibility. You should review your Medicaid and food stamp documents which you received when you applied and first received the benefits. They will spell out your reporting requirements for both programs. If you don't have the documents, you can call both programs anonymously and address your questions to them anonymously. Failure to comply with your reporting requirements can result in criminal prosecution, so you should pay particular attention to the time deadlines for reporting. I suggest you discuss this further with your attorney, who can probably give you more specific guidance.
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Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.