As a Los Angeles County special needs lawyer, I often receive questions about whether a disabled individual can continue to receive benefits after receiving an inheritance. The answer is that it really depends on the type of benefit that is being collected.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
SSDI is a government benefit that helps those with disabilities. Individuals are eligible to receive SSDI if they are completely unable to work due to their disability and if they have paid into Social Security for a specific amount of time depending on their age (or, if the individual is under 22, a parent has paid into social security for a number of years and is disabled, receiving Social Security payments, or deceased). If the individual can earn money through substantial gainful employment, then he or she may not be able to receive the SSDI benefit. However, the individual is still allowed to receive income from other sources and will not be disqualified from receiving the SSDI benefit if an inheritance is left to the person collecting benefits.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
While SSI is often confused with SSDI, as they both provide benefits to individuals with special needs, they are in fact two very different programs. The main difference lies in the fact that there are very strict income requirements placed on SSI recipients, and income above the threshold will disqualify the individual from receiving benefits. An inheritance also falls into this category and can stop benefits instantly. Los Angeles County special needs lawyers advise that any possible inheritance that might be left to a person with special needs should instead be left to a Special Needs Trust, which allows the funds to be used on the individual’s behalf without jeopardizing benefits.
Medi-Cal is a federal health insurance program designed to help those with little to no income, including people with disabilities. Once again, this is a need-based program with very strict financial limits placed on the beneficiaries. Not only must the beneficiaries have little to no income, but they also must meet a financial limit, which is scrutinized over a look-back period of five years. Again, because of the need-based nature of this program, Los Angeles County special needs lawyers urge anyone that anticipates receiving an inheritance while on Medi-Cal to talk to a lawyer about setting up a trust to ensure that any government benefits stay intact.
If you have any questions regarding special needs trusts and government benefits, please call us at (310) 782-6322 to set up a consultation.