TheElder & Disability Law Firm, APC
Contact Us To Set Up A Strategy Session Toll Free:800-409-6271

Redlands California Estate Planning Blog

SSA paying vets who are dead, not paying some who are alive

The inspector general of the Social Security Administration reported that improper payments amounting to almost $38 million were made to 746 deceased veterans, some of whom may have been from California. The deaths were not properly entered into Social Security databases, according to the inspector, and the payments were discovered during an audit. The findings of the audit were reported in August 2017. Unless its records are brought up to date, the SSA is likely to make a further $7.3 million in erroneous payments by August 2018.

On the other side of the problem, a large number of veterans were listed in databases as deceased when they were, in fact, still alive. The SSA gathers information about the deaths of beneficiaries from relatives and friends, state and federal agencies, financial institutions and funeral homes. Additionally, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides the SSA with death records every month, based on data from the Veterans Service Network and the Beneficiary Identification Records Locator System. Employees of the SSA are supposed to independently verify information from the DVA.

Disability programs interrelated, benefits affect one another

Social Security Disability and federal civil service disability programs are integrated to an extent. In a situation where a California resident who works for the federal government becomes disabled, he or she should be careful to protect the rights available under each of the programs. Federal employees who become disabled might be entitled to a disability annuity. To qualify under the Civil Service Retirement System or CSRS-Offset, an employee must have worked for five years or more in federal civilian service.

To qualify under the Federal Employees Retirement System, the employee must have worked in federal civil service for 18 months. Additionally, people must have become disabled for useful and efficient service with regard to their current position as well as any vacant position that is at the same pay level or grade. Useful and efficient service is defined to mean the ability to perform acceptably the essential or critical elements of the position and the ability to maintain satisfactory attendance and conduct.

Social Security Disability in California

The Social Security Administration considers people disabled if they have a condition that prevents them from doing substantial work, and the condition must last -- or be expected to last -- over a year in duration. When someone becomes disabled, the inability to work and the resulting income lost is a real concern. This type of situation is why Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance exist.

People who feel they meet the criteria for being disabled and wants to apply for disability should get help when doing so. An attorney can help initially file an application for Social Security Disability benefits, and they can help appeal an initial denial. A "non-attorney representative" could also do this, but there is no financial incentive in doing so since federal regulations specify that the fees are the same for all professionals performing this service.

Reducing the risks involved with administering trusts

In California, more and more people are choosing to set up trusts as part of their estate plans. Today, many new types of trusts are available, and they are much more complex. Modern trusts may have portfolios that include far more than the traditional stocks, bonds and real estate. Some trusts might include businesses, collectibles, art, commodities and minerals. With more diversified portfolios, these trusts are extremely difficult to administer.

When grantors are trying to decide who to name as the trustees of their trusts, they should consider the potential risks that the trustees will face. Identifying what these risks might be may help the grantors to choose trustees who might be better able to manage the trusts and to minimize their risks.

The importance of naming the right successor trustees

California residents who are establishing living trusts will need to determine who to select to serve as their successor trustees. There are several considerations that they should make before doing so.

When people establish living trusts, they normally serve as the initial trustees. After they pass away, the role will pass to their spouses if they are married and have named them as co-trustees. If they are unmarried or after their spouses die, successor trustees will step into the roles of administering the trusts. These should be people who are highly trustworthy and that have the time and knowledge that will be needed to fulfill their duties.

Different trust assets can raise different issues

Among the tools individuals sometimes use in estate planning and other types of planning are trusts. One of the ways trusts vary from one another is in what assets they contain. There are a range of different types of assets a person could opt to put into a trust.

What assets a trust contains can have many impacts. This includes what particular issues come up in relation to the administration of the trust. Some types of property can give rise to unique and complex issues when put into a trust. Examples include property of a particularly unique nature (such as antiques) or property that can be challenging to properly value.

How Social Security disability claims are processed

California residents who can no longer work due to a medical condition may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. But understanding if an illness, injury or simply old age makes someone entitled to payments can be confusing. The Social Security Administration uses a procedure to determine if a person is entitled to payment of benefits that involves certain criteria.

The SSA maintains a list of impairments that are considered severe enough to prevent someone from working. There is a separate list of impairments for children who sometimes qualify for Supplemental Security Income. SSI is different than SSDI because it does not relate to past work experience. Disabled children or adults who have never worked or have not worked recently as well as elderly people could be eligible for SSI benefits.

Is your loved one ready for an assisted living center?

As your loved ones get older, several difficult conversations may have to take place if you see that they are not able to make important life decisions on their own. Indeed, elderly loved ones may not feel comfortable giving up the autonomy and freedoms they have enjoyed for most of their lives. But as their faculties continue to erode, they may need help in maintaining a safe standard of living.

For some elderly loved ones, this may mean moving into an assisted living facility. But when should one consider such care? This post will highlight a few things to look for.

Preserving assets and leaving legacies takes preparation

If you and your spouse have amassed significant assets and/or businesses during your lifetimes, you want to preserve them for future generations instead of letting the government erode them through taxes and other depreciation.

Below are some vital reasons for you to work closely with your estate planning attorney to preserve your hard-earned assets.

Tips for discussing estate planning with your elderly parents

If you have concerns about your parents' estate plan, there is no time to waste. You should bring this topic to the forefront, as this will allow you to clear the air and help them understand the importance of making a few key decisions.

Here are some of the many tips you can follow to more easily discuss estate planning with your elderly parents:

  • Schedule a time to talk. You don't want to bring up this subject on a whim, as it's a conversation that requires the full attention of all parties. Set aside time to focus on estate planning and nothing else.
  • Focus on the wants and needs of your parents. This doesn't have anything to do with you and your future. Instead, you want your parents to make the right decisions for them.
  • Be careful about what you say. You don't want to come across as being pushy, forceful or greedy. This is why you should have a clear communication strategy in place before you sit down to talk about this.
  • Ask key questions. This will differ from one person to the next, but don't be shy about asking important questions. An example of this would be: Have you thought about what will happen to your home after your pass on?
  • Involve others. While it may make sense for the conversation to involve only you and your parents, don't hesitate to bring others into the fold. For instance, your siblings may want to join in.
  • Don't talk specifics. You may find that your parents are uncomfortable talking about specifics, such as dollar amounts. There is nothing wrong with this. You can still accomplish your goals without talking about the finer details.

Keep In Touch

Firm Numbers:

Firm Location:

Redlands Office
104 E. Olive Ave., Suite 103
Redlands, CA 92373

Toll Free: 800-409-6271
Redlands Law Office Map

Riverside Office
3610 Central Ave., Suite 400
Riverside, CA 92506

Map & Directions

Satellite Office:

follow us on: