ORLANDO, Florida — Shuffield, Lowman & Wilson, P.A. recently announced the addition of a fourth office location in Daytona Beach, Florida, with the acquisition of the law firm of Van Houten, Ponder & Hahl, P.A. The Daytona Beach office is located at 114 South Palmetto Avenue in the city’s downtown business district.
According to Managing Partner, William R. Lowman, Jr., “Outreach to Volusia and Flagler counties has long been a goal of the firm. With two new offices in DeLand and Daytona Beach we feel we are well positioned to bring our depth of legal knowledge and collective experience to both the business community and individuals needing our wide variety of legal services.”
Shuffield, Lowman & Wilson, P.A. offices are located in downtown Orlando in the Gateway Center building, and downtown locations in Tavares, DeLand and Daytona Beach. The firm is a 31-attorney, full service, business law firm, practicing in the areas of corporate law, securities, banking and finance, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, land use and government law, real estate, commercial and civil litigation, labor and employment, estate planning and probate, guardianship and elder law, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, patent licensing, trademarks and copyrights, tax advice and controversy, non-profit organization law, planning for high net worth families with closely held businesses and environmental law.
ShuffieldLowman has grown again, this time with a newly acquired fourth office located in downtown Daytona Beach. Firm partner Steve McDonald initiated the acquisition of the law firm of Van Houten, Ponder & Hahl, P.A. after being approached by Linda Ponder, the widow of his longtime friend Stephen R. Ponder. According to Steve McDonald, “Steve and I met the first day of law school, became immediate friends, and have remained friends ever since. Shortly after Stephen passed, Linda called and said that Stephen had always told her that if she needed anything after he was gone that she could rely on me. I told Linda that I felt honored that he reposed such confidence in me and that I had told my wife, Cathy, that if anything ever happened to me and she needed help that she could always trust Stephen. While we had not planned on opening a Daytona office in the near future, it was an opportunity for the firm to grow and, on a personal note, it was a chance to do what felt like the right thing and help Stephen’s family realize value out of the practice he had worked so hard to build. I am thankful to have such forward-looking and compassionate partners. I think this is one of those rare situations in life, that is a ‘Win Win’ for both Stephen’s family and the firm. Although I’ve lost a dear friend, Shuffield Lowman will honor Stephen’s legacy by continuing to serve Stephen’s clients with the same quality legal representation he delivered.”
The Daytona Beach office is located at 114 South Palmetto Avenue in the city’s downtown business district. The new office joins the ShuffieldLowman line-up of excellent downtown locations, including Orlando, Tavares and DeLand. All offices offer convenient on-site parking. If our any of our offices are more convenient for you, just let us know and we’ll be happy to schedule your next appoint at the location that works best for you!
While all of our loved ones are important to us, when establishing a comprehensive estate plan we need to give extra attention to those individuals who have special needs. Not only must we consider the value and types of assets that these individuals will receive, but we also need to pay close attention to how these assets will be administered for their benefit and how the government assistance that such individuals receive will be affected by this new financial resource. In many cases, a Special Needs Trust may be an appropriate tool to supplement the care of such individuals while preserving their inheritance over their lifetime.
How does a Special Needs Trust work?
Whether or not the inheritance is considered a “resource” for purposes of determining if an individual can receive certain means-based government benefits is extremely important when planning for a beneficiary with special needs. If the individual’s resources exceed a certain threshold (generally a very low level) then the individual is not eligible to receive such benefits. In general, a sum of money that is devised to an individual under a will or standard trust agreement would be counted as a resource of that individual for purposes of determining if they can receive certain means-based government benefits. However, if the devise is left to such individual in a properly drafted Special Needs Trust, that money will not be counted as an available resource for that beneficiary, and they can continue to receive government benefits despite the money that is held for their benefit in the Special Needs Trust. The Special Needs Trust contains language that the funds in the trust are not to supplement government benefits, but to supplement them. In practical terms, this means that your gift to that beneficiary can be used to supplement their care while they continue to receive government benefits to provide for their support.
Why would I consider a Special Needs Trust if I have significant wealth?
Often clients are initially resistant to planning options that are designed to protect means based government benefits simply because they feel that the inheritance they are leaving the individual with special needs will be enough to provide for that individual without the need for government assistance. However, when you begin to consider the high cost of health care for individuals with special needs, even a large inheritance can be exhausted in a short period of time.
Consider, for example, if you leave a gift of $500,000 to your mentally handicapped niece as part of your Revocable Trust who currently receives SSI and Medicaid benefits. If this gift is left to her under a standard trust or as an outright devise under your Will, it will be counted as a resource for her and she will become ineligible for the means based benefits she is currently receiving. If her care costs are $100,000 per year, then depending on the rate of growth of her inheritance, this gift will only pay for approximately 5 years of care. After that time, your niece will again have no financial resources and will have to apply for public benefits to provide for her care.
If instead, the gift of $500,000 is left to your niece in a properly drafted Special Needs Trust, managed by an individual or corporate trustee, that inheritance will not be considered a resource for purposes of means based benefits eligibility. Since that gift will not disqualify her for the benefits she is receiving, she will continue to get those benefits to pay for her care and support. The money in her Special Needs Trust can be used to supplement that care by paying for extra therapies, entertainment, comfort items and other goods and services to enhance her quality of life. The inheritance can continue to grow and provide benefits to the beneficiary for decades instead of being immediately exhausted. Also, with a testamentary Special Needs Trust, there is no required payback to the state for Medicaid benefits paid on behalf of an individual during his lifetime. If the special needs individual passes, the funds in the Special Needs Trust can go to other beneficiaries as provided in the trust.
Who is going to manage the Special Needs Trust?
One of the challenges of planning for a beneficiary with special needs is that often the person putting together the estate plan is the person who has been caring for this individual throughout their lifetime. There are frequently concerns about who will care for the beneficiary and who will ensure that the money that is left will be properly managed and administered for the benefit of the special needs beneficiary. While a Special Needs Trust is a great planning tool, the administration of such Trust should be handled with special care to ensure that the Trustee is not doing anything that adversely affects the beneficiary’s government benefits. For this reason, consider a corporate or professional Trustee who has experience in managing these types of Special Needs Trusts.
If you would like to further discuss how Special Needs Trusts work or discuss whether this planning tool may be appropriate to incorporate into your estate plan, please contact one of our attorneys to discuss any questions you may have.
ORLANDO, Florida — Janet E. Martinez, firm partner of Shuffield, Lowman & Wilson, P.A. , was recently selected as a 2014 Top Rated Lawyer in Taxation Law by ALM. ALM, a provider of news and information to the legal industry, teamed up with Martindale-Hubbell™ to highlight “Top Rated Lawyers” in a recent issue of the Daily Business Review. ALM is a global leader in specialized business news and information with media properties, which include Law.com, The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel, The National Law Journal and The New York Law Journal.
Martinez, head of the firm’s DeLand office, earned her law degree (J.D., 1978) from Yale Law School and her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University (B.A., 1975, summa cum laude.) She brings clients more than 30 years of experience in estate planning, with emphasis on complex tax issues, business succession planning, estate and trust administration, charitable giving, international tax and estate planning, non-profits, and business law. Martinez speaks several foreign languages, but focuses on a bilingual practice including Spanish to best serve the growing Spanish-speaking clientele in the areas. She has been published both nationally and internationally.
Especially noted for her leadership in the Volusia and Flagler communities, including serving as the treasurer of the Volusia United Way Women’s Initiative, the president of the Volusia County Women’s Network, and as a member of the Latino Advisory Committee to the Volusia County School Board, her contributions also extend to serving as Legal Advisor to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando. In addition, she is known for her pro bono work with Alianza de Mujeres Activas, Inc. a Northwest Volusia County group focused on generating food and funding for women and families in need. The Volusia County Bar honored her with the 2007 Volusia County Bar’s Above and Beyond award. Martinez also brings pro bono leadership to the Alliance for International Reforestation, Inc., an international organization dedicated to reforestation in poverty stricken areas of Guatemala and Nicaragua. She has been recognized multiple times for her leadership throughout the region.
Shuffield, Lowman & Wilson, P.A. offices are located in downtown Orlando in the Gateway Center building and in downtown Tavares, DeLand and Daytona Beach. The firm is a 31-attorney, full service, business law firm, practicing in the areas of corporate law, securities, banking and finance, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, land use and government law, real estate, commercial and civil litigation, labor and employment, estate planning and probate, guardianship and elder law, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, patent licensing, trademarks and copyrights, tax advice and controversy, non-profit organization law, planning for high net worth families with closely held businesses and environmental law.