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Redlands California Estate Planning Blog

Executive order helps veterans with mental health needs

Veterans in California and throughout the country may benefit from a recent executive order signed by President Trump that is set to take effect on March 9. The order would allow immediate access to mental health services for those out of the military for a year or less. Typically, an individual is only entitled to VA benefits once a health issue has been identified.

Furthermore, in order to be eligible for treatment, a person's condition must be linked to his or her military service. Individuals who have been out of the military for a year or less are the most likely to commit suicide, and each day, 20 people that have recently transitioned into civilian life kill themselves, according to data from the Washington Post. President Trump said during the signing ceremony that providing veterans with quality care was a top priority.

Navigating the disability benefit appeals process

A mental or physical disability may make it impossible for a person to work, and those individuals may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. However, it is possible that applicants in California and around the country could have their initial claim denied. It is also possible that a reconsideration of that denial may yield the same result. Those who have had their applications denied at the first two levels of the appeal process can ask for a disability hearing.

It is critical that a claimant can verify the onset date of the disability. This should be listed as part of an application for benefits, and medical records will be used to verify this fact. Ideally, a doctor will be able to provide recent medical records to show that the disability is severe and ongoing. A disability examiner may require an applicant to submit to a consultative examination depending on the age of the medical records.

Applicants denied disability can appeal the decision

People in California afflicted by significant physical or mental problems often seek benefits through the Social Security Disability program. The federal agency frequently denies benefits to applicants, but an appeals process is in place. A rejected applicant has 60 days from the date of the denial notice to initiate an appeal. Technically, the agency allows an extra five days for mailing paperwork, which really makes the deadline 65 days.

Missing this deadline, however, does not always lock someone out of the appeals process. A statement explaining the reason for a delayed request for appeal might enable someone to gain a second look at an application as long as the reason qualifies as a good cause for missing the deadline. The statement must spell out in detail the circumstances that prevented a person from meeting the standard deadline.

How to handle returns to work while receiving disability benefits

Some individuals in California with a short-term disability that keeps them from working may consider applying for benefits from Social Security to cover this period of time. Using Social Security for this purpose isn't possible due to the requirements that need to be met to apply for disability benefits. Even so, disability beneficiaries may be able to suspend or stop benefits if circumstances change.

In order to apply for Social Security disability, a recipient must expect to be unable to earn a sustained income for at least the next twelve months. While Social Security or SSI disability isn't meant to be used as a type of short-term disability insurance, there are times when recipients may only need this coverage temporarily. The process of filing for disability benefits can be time-consuming, even more so if the initial claim is denied. If benefits are approved, recipients may return to work up to a total of 9 months within a 60-month period without their benefits being affected.

How some mental conditions affect SSI and SSD benefit eligibility

In California and the rest of the U.S., people with disabling mental conditions may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The Social Security Administration has a disability guidebook listing all the severity requirements that applicants must satisfy in order to receive benefits. Anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, PTSD, ADD, and learning disorders are among the mental impairments listed.

Among the requirements of the SSA is objective medical evidence of the condition. Laying out a history of treatments under a qualified mental health professional, preferably a treating physician, can be helpful. Otherwise, the applicant may have to undergo a consultative examination with a health professional hired by the SSA. It's a quick exam conducted by a stranger who hardly knows the patient's medical history; this is why a CE rarely results in the applicant being approved.

Long-term care and Medicaid planning: It’s time to take action

With people living longer than ever before, it's important to consider the fact that you may require long-term care at some point in the future. Adding to this, you don't want to lose sight of the fact that long-term care can be costly.

It doesn't matter if you receive care in a nursing facility or at home, the cost can quickly add up. As a result, it's not out of the question for your assets to take a hit in no time at all.

There is more than one way to reduce estate taxes

Like many people, you may be concerned about estate taxes. Fortunately, when creating an estate plan, there are many things you can do to give yourself peace of mind. Here are some of the many methods to consider if you want to reduce your estate taxes:

  • Marital transfers. As long as your spouse is not a non-citizen, lifetime gifts are not subject to estate taxes.
  • Gifts to children and grandchildren. While there is a limit as to how much you can gift your children and grandchildren each year, this still remains one of the better ways to reduce estate taxes.
  • The use of an irrevocable life insurance trust. You can transfer money from your estate into an irrevocable life insurance trust.
  • Family limited partnership. This comes into play if you are looking to transfer a family owned business to the next generation.
  • Charitable transfers. It's not the right choice for everyone, but a gift to charity upon your death can reduce the size of your estate, thus doing the same for any estate taxes.

These are not the only ways to reduce estate taxes, but they are among the most common strategies. As you learn more about the finer details of each one, including how to implement the strategy, it will become clear as to which direction you should head with your estate plan in the future.

Medical records for SSD claims

California residents that apply for Social Security Disability benefits have to submit medical records that verify their conditions. The records should come from the treating physician, and they should detail when the impairment began and how it will develop in the future. The physician will also be able to document any mental or physical restrictions the condition has on the applicant's ability to work.

The medical records should provide a comprehensive view of the applicant's medical condition. When deciding what to include, applicants should keep in mind that the objective is for the disability examiner to make a decision without having to request additional medical information. Generally, if the medical records applicants provide are sufficient, they should expect to have their claims processed in a timely manner.

Exploring the intangible side of estate planning

An estate plan can be a critical part of creating a future for people in California and across the United States. Not only does estate planning help to distribute assets clearly through the use of wills, trusts, insurance and other instruments, it also helps to ease the period after death for heirs and calm the emotional pain following the loss of a loved one. A complex and unplanned estate can pile stress on to an already painful situation, while a well-planned estate allows for the easiest transfer possible of real and personal property. Because it is an in-depth process that includes important decisions about the future, estate planning can provoke nostalgia and an impetus to transfer thoughts, memories, connections and family stories to a new generation.

Estate planning can inspire new thinking about one's life and the people and values that one views as most important. These intangible aspects of a person's life include intellectual assets like business connections or invention ideas but can also be more emotional in nature. People may feel a renewed drive to share memories and family legacies with their children. Indeed, reviewing history can become a form of tangible personal property as people write down their memoirs, create letters to be passed down on death or record a series of reminiscences.

SSA disregards short-terms needs of disabled people

California residents who are confronted by long-term disability could face significant financial hardships while waiting for an answer about disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. Strict requirements guide eligibility for benefits, and the agency denies many applicants. Although an appeals process is in place, years might pass before the agency makes a decision.

According to statements from the SSA, the agency's system expects people to provide for themselves while awaiting an approval for long-term financial benefits. The agency suggests that people use savings, short-term disability insurance, or workers' compensation benefits, or rely on relatives. As it turns out, employees of the SSA do not receive short-term disability benefits through their employer.

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