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Redlands California Estate Planning Blog

Social Security Disability applicants benefit from representation

People in California who are unable to work may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. However, the process to apply for and receive these benefits can often be difficult and challenging. It can be important for applicants to have representation at a hearing to maximize their likelihood of success.

Representation at a hearing has been shown to lead to a higher likelihood of a successful case. This is because representation brings the benefit of thorough preparation for the case by a knowledgeable person as well as a correct presentation of the argument in favor of a benefits application that meets the standards and guidelines of the hearing. Prior to the hearing itself, the representative would gather updated medical records. This is important because, in many cases, the only records on file by the time of the hearing will be stale, diminishing the likelihood of a successful outcome. Unrepresented applicants may not be aware of the need to develop their case with updated information prior to the hearing.

Past work as it applies to disability benefits

Those in California and elsewhere who apply for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits will be asked for information relating to their mental and physical abilities. This information is used to create a residual functional capacity score. When determining what type of work a person may be suited for, an examiner may look at past work performed during the relevant period.

The relevant period is the previous 15 years of a person's life, and an examiner will look at all jobs done during this time. As a general rule, any skills acquired in these jobs may be considered useful to finding employment in the current job market. However, those who didn't earn a gainful income from a position may not see it count as past work. This may also be true of a job in which a person didn't stay long enough to learn how to perform it properly.

Response times have no bearing on the merits of an SSD case

It is not uncommon for a person's initial Social Security Disability or SSI benefit application to be denied. The speed of which a California resident's application is denied has no bearing on the strength of an individual's case. Those who handle cases generally have no deadline as to when a case must be resolved. Furthermore, cases are not necessarily reviewed in the order that they are received.

Generally speaking, the goal is to review a case in as little time as possible. However, this can only be done after relevant medical records have been obtained. Medical request forms are sent out as soon as an application is received. After that, there is little an examiner can do but wait for the request to be fulfilled. Wait times can be several weeks or more, and additional information may be necessary to make a determination.

The many advantages of a trust

California residents may believe that trusts are only worthwhile for those who are wealthy. However, this is not necessarily the case. An individual may benefit from creating a living trust that may go into effect if that person becomes incapacitated. During that time, a designated person or entity would manage the individual's affairs in accordance with the trust's terms.

Having a trust may be ideal for those who have property in multiple states. This is because it saves surviving family members from having to go through probate multiple times. It may also help an estate avoid probate altogether regardless of what a person may own. Bypassing the probate process may allow assets to get to their intended beneficiaries faster and in a less expensive manner.

SSD appeals

California residents who have had their Social Security Disability benefit claims denied can appeal that decision. As a general rule, a response has to be received by the appropriate office within 65 days of the denial notice. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Typically, late responses are more likely to be accepted at the reconsideration level as opposed to the administrative hearing level.

If claimants don't think that they will be able to file a timely response, it may be possible for an attorney to help do so. In addition to mailing a response, it may be possible to go online or appear at a local office to respond to a denial notice. Whether or not a late response is accepted depends on the person who is handling the case. However, late responses are generally accepted if an individual never received a denial notice.

Nursing homes are expensive: Determine coverage now

Nursing homes are expensive, especially when you don't have long-term insurance that can help with costs. Unfortunately, not everyone who is going to face the prospect of living in a nursing home takes time to get their affairs in order to defray the costs of living in one of these facilities.

There are many ways that you might be able to afford to live in one of these facilities. Here are a few things to think about when you are making decisions about how you are going to pay for long-term care:

Financial planning for senior citizens

Most California residents would prefer to spend their retirement years in their own homes, but this may not always be possible. Taking steps to prepare for the financial costs of long-term care is an important part of estate planning, but individuals face a number of other important decisions as they near retirement. Large homes that were once filled with children may be unsuitable for retirement living, and not paying attention to tax issues could cause Medicare premiums to rise.

Retirees who wish to remain in their homes should first determine what sort of renovations are called for to take care of their retirement needs. The costs of installing stair lifts and wheelchair ramps can mount quickly, and it may make more sense to put the property on the market and look for a more suitable house. Residential developments that cater to the needs of retirees can be found all over California, and these communities usually offer social activities as well as homes designed with older occupants in mind.

The next step after being denied twice for SS benefits

California residents who have medical conditions that prevent them from working might be entitled to Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income. But for many people, the first application for benefits is denied. Being denied does not mean there is no chance for receiving benefits. A denied application can be appealed or people can reapply, even if they have been denied twice.

There is a difference between reapplying after a denial and appealing the decision. If someone is denied on the first application for SSD or SSI, it is recommended that an appeal be filed. This can be done within 60 days of being denied. Five days are added to the time limit to allow the appeal to go through the mail, but it is also possible to file an appeal online.

Spendthrift trusts often call for a cautious approach

California is one of a number of states in which domestic asset protection trusts, which are also known as spendthrift trusts, can be used to safeguard assets. They have become more popular in recent years because they protect trust assets from creditors even when the grantor is a discretionary beneficiary. In addition to shielding assets from creditors, spendthrift trusts provide income and transfer tax planning benefits, allow for greater privacy and can be particularly useful when young adults inherit significant sums or beneficiaries do not pay U.S. taxes.

However, spendthrift trusts should be drafted carefully. Transfers that are primarily made to defraud creditors or delay or hinder the repayment of a debt may be considered voidable transactions and ordered undone. These rules apply to creditors who are known even if they have yet to surface, but unforeseen future creditors are generally not covered.

Relocation and SSD benefits

California residents who relocate to another state and who are receiving Social Security Disability benefits should see no change in the amount that they receive. Because the program is a national one, there will be no change even if the recipient's new state of residence requires less to live. The cost of living is not used to determine how much SSD benefits one receives.

The issue about which SSD benefits recipients should be concerned is whether their total monthly money will decrease if they relocate to another state. A move to a new state may result in a decrease to their overall benefits. This is because there are states that provide supplements to SSD benefits. SSD benefits recipients receiving supplements and who move to states that do not provide supplements may experience a decrease in overall money.

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