How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?How long the does the divorce process take? That depends on a lot of factors, including how complicated the division of assets is (how many assets, children, pets, etc.) and how well you two cooperate in the divorce process. If one spouse decides they want to drag it out, they can make it last years.

The Requirements

First, there are some requirements you need to meet before you can even file for divorce. These include the fact that, under Illinois law, you or your spouse need to have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before you can file for divorce in Illinois. If children are involved, that limit goes up to 180 days. If for some reason you don’t meet the time limit and you can’t wait, you’ll have to file in another state.

In Illinois, the only remaining grounds for divorce is irreconcilable differences.  Under Illinois law, if you and your spouse have been living separate and apart for 6 months, irreconcilable differences are presumed. If you have not been living separate and apart for 6 months, you can still file for divorce, but you must allege that irreconcilable differences have arisen and prove same.

Uncontested Divorce

The best-case scenario is when you and your spouse can both agree that divorce is in everyone’s best interests, and you can agree on things like the division of assets, spousal support, and parenting time. These divorces can be completed in as little as two weeks, but more commonly take a month or two.  If there are children involved, both parties must complete a parenting class prior to the entry of the final judgment.

Contested Divorce

When you and your spouse can’t agree on one or more of the important factors in the divorce, that’s known as a contested divorce and it can take much longer – anywhere from 18 to 30 months and on. Each issue that you and your spouse can’t agree on needs to be determined by a judge, and each time you need to go before a judge to argue your case extends the time it will take before the divorce can be finalized.

Divorce by Publication (Default)

Maybe things have deteriorated in your marriage to the point where you don’t even know where your spouse is currently living. If this is the case and you want to seek a divorce from this person, you’ll need a divorce by publication, which requires a few steps.

First you need to attempt to notify the spouse of your intention to divorce them. If you don’t know where they are, you can publish a notice of your intention in local newspapers in the area where they were last known to reside.

You also need to do everything you can to try to locate your spouse. This might include things like calling their friends and family, their last known residence/landlord, employer, etc. There’s no definition for the things you need to do in order to prove you made an effort to reach your spouse, but you do need to provide sufficient evidence that you did everything in your power to reach them. This process could take months.

The missing spouse needs to be given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the notice of your intention to divorce them, but if they fail to respond, then the court will grant your divorce. At that point, you will need to publish notice of the divorce in all the local papers in the area where your spouse was last known to reside.  After publishing the notice once a week for three weeks without a response, the court will deem the divorce to have been finalized.

The Attorneys

Unfortunately, some attorneys will take advantage of the friction in divorces and drag out the process, so they can bill more hours on the case. We never do this. Our job is to serve you and make the process as easy and painless as possible. If you’re considering getting divorced and you need a family law firm you can trust, reach out to us today to schedule a consultation.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

How Are the “Best Interests of the Children” Determined?

Best Interests of the ChildrenWhen a couple with children decides to get divorced, the first question is usually: how will it affect the children? In most cases, everyone wants what’s best for the children, including the court, but what, exactly, does that mean? And how does a court determine what’s in the best interests of the children?

Ideally, the couple can agree on what’s best for their children and work together to come up with a Parenting Plan that decides how much parenting time each parent gets, where the children will live, who pays child support and how much, etc. The Parenting Plan needs to be approved by a judge, but judges do often assume the parents know what’s best for their children. So long as the Parenting Plan does not run afoul of the law, go against public policy interests, and/or seem unconscionable (meaning no reasonable person would agree to it), the Parenting Plan will be approved by the Court.

Most couples can agree on how to raise the children after the divorce, but sometimes a divorce happens in which the couples can’t agree, and no amount of mediation can help them reach common ground. In that case, the court will have to step in and make up its own mind as to what’s best for the children of the divorcing couple.

In addition to determining how to split parenting time, most judges will also decide which parent gets to make the major parenting decisions (where the children will go to school, who their doctor will be, when they can get their driver’s license, etc.) In Illinois, the law requires that the Court allocate decision-making responsibilities to the parents, either by having them jointly decide one category or by having one parent be solely responsible.  With the 2016 amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the Court now specifically has to award decision-making responsibility for the 4 following categories:  Health/Medical, Education, Religion, and Extracurricular Activities.  For each category, the Court must indicate whether both or one parent can decide that issue, so it is possible for one parent to have sole decision making on something like medical decisions, but the other parent to be solely responsible for educational decisions.

When allocation of decision-making is contested, Judges must look at 15 factors and weigh them against the existing facts of that case. Those 15 factors are:

  • The children’s wishes;
  • How well the children have adjusted to their current home, school, and community in general;
  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved in the divorce;
  • The level of conflict between the parents and their ability to work together to make decisions;
  • The level of each parent’s past participation in making significant parenting decisions;
  • Any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents regarding the making of parenting decisions;
  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The children’s needs;
  • The distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the children, each parent’s daily schedules, that of the children, and the likelihood the parents will be able to cooperate in an arrangement;
  • Whether a restriction on decision-making is appropriate;
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to foster a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the children;
  • Any history of physical violence or threatened physical violence directed at the children by either parent;
  • Any history of abuse against the children or any member of the child(ren’s) household;
  • Whether one of the parents is a sex offender, the nature of their offense, whether they’ve sought treatment, and the nature of that treatment;
  • Any other factor the court might find relevant.

It should be noted that this is not a tally in which parents should aim to win the most points. Each judge will give more weight to some factors than others and it all depends on the situation. If you have any questions about what this might mean for your case, contact us today.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Who Gets to Keep the House?

Who Gets to Keep the HouseWho gets to keep the house is often one of the most highly contested aspects of a divorce. Not only is it the largest piece of marital property, but it’s also where the couple made a home together. Many people might want to keep the house, not for its value, but for sentimental reasons, or because it’s the only home they’ve known for the past several years, or even decades. On the other hand, others might want nothing to do with a house that is now tainted with negative associations of an unhappy marriage, but they may need the house as a financial asset to help them get back on their feet after the divorce.

Try to Reach an Agreement

The ideal situation is always to talk with your spouse about what you want and why. Have an honest conversation about what each of you wants and needs from the divorce and how the house plays into that. Maintaining honest communication with your spouse is especially important if you decide to divorce through mediation or work together to come up with a divorce settlement that works for both of you.

Marital Property

The first thing to determine is whether the house can be considered marital property. In most cases the answer is yes, since newlyweds tend to buy a house together shortly after getting married and/or people move into new homes together after they’ve been married for several years. If one spouse owned it prior to the marriage, but the other made mortgage payments and/or other significant contributions to the maintenance of the house, or additions or projects that significantly increased its value, then it could give that spouse certain rights to seek a monetary award from the home.

But not all marital property is split 50/50 under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Instead, it gets divided based on several factors, including, but not limited to, the level of contribution by each spouse to acquiring and maintaining the property, the duration of the marriage, other property the parties will be receiving in the divorce, as well as their needs following the divorce.

Factors that Tend to Be Considered When Deciding Who Gets the House

That said, there are also other factors that play into the decision regarding which partner gets to keep the house. For example, if children are involved, the partner given the most parenting time in the divorce usually gets the house so they can keep living there with the kids. Divorce can be especially hard on children, and most judges are sensitive to the fact that letting the kids stay in the same house with one of their parents can help them adjust to the big change. Allowing the kids to stay in the house also means they don’t have to switch to a different school district or leave their friends behind, which is good for them, not only because it means minimizing the changes they have to go through, but also because they have a support system in place to help them deal with the stress of the divorce.

Sometimes the decision is less one of “who gets the house?” and more one of “who gets to stay in the house for now?” For example, if there are children involved, and the partner with the most parenting time gets to stay in the house with the kids, judges have been known to allow them the first opportunity to stay in the home. However, this is dependent on other factors, such as that spouse’s ability to refinance the mortgage, if the loan is in both names, and for that spouse to be able to afford to pay the mortgage following the divorce.

Regardless of whether children are involved, one spouse might be allowed to keep the house on the condition that they buy out the other spouse’s interest in the property. In a spousal support arrangement, the higher-earning spouse may be required to continue making mortgage, taxes, and/or insurance payments on the house, even if they no longer live there.

As you can see, divorce is a complicated situation and the more property is involved, the more complicated it gets. If you are getting, or considering getting divorced, contact our offices right away to discuss your options.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Sherer Law Offices To Celebrate 25 Years In Practice

Sherer Law Offices celebrated their 25th anniversary of their practice in April. The owner of the firm and principal attorney, Barbara L. Sherer, received her J.D. from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis in 1987. After graduation, she clerked for the Honorable Ken Karohl, Court of Appeals, Eastern Missouri. Barbara then joined as an associate at Lucco, Brown and Mudge for several years, gaining her first exposure to domestic litigation. Barbara then moved on to the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office where she was lead attorney in the Domestic Violence Enforcement Unit and also the Child Support Enforcement Unit. In 1993, Barbara took the leap and opened her own practice concentrating in domestic relations litigation, criminal defense, real estate and appellate practice.

“I am thrilled to be celebrating my twenty-fifth anniversary of private practice this year, and I look forward to continue being a voice and legal advocate for people that need our help. Our primary objective is to help our clients move forward legally, financially and emotionally in a positive way.One of the core values of our firm is to make sure our own work environment is family friendly by providing a support system for our own employees.”

Sherer Law Offices has grown from one attorney and a part time assistant to four attorneys, three law clerks, two of whom will be joining as associates after graduation next month, and five paralegals.

Sherer Law Offices has two locations in Edwardsville: 205 Second Street in Edwardsville, and another at 517 St. Louis Street, which is currently in the process of expansion. They also have an additional location to better serve their growing client base in St. Clair County located at 110 West Main Street, Suite 140, Belleville, IL.

Sherer Law is pleased to announce their fourth location to better serve the Monroe County area. Their new location at 116 West Mill Street in Waterloo, IL, just opened on June 1st. Two of their associates, Caitlin Embrich and Tara Barnett are members of the Monroe County Bar Association, as well as on the Monroe County Mediation List.

Sherer Law Offices has proudly served the region for the last 25 years in the following counties: Madison, St. Clair, Macoupin, Bond, Montgomery, Jersey, Clinton, Fayette, Sangamon, Monroe, Macon and Jackson.

What Does Child Support Cover?

child supportIf you’re getting divorced (or thinking about getting divorced) you may be wondering how much you can expect to pay (or receive) in child support payments. Unlike alimony, which is based on a percentage of each spouse’s income, child support is calculated based on the estimated costs of caring for and raising a child.

While the amount of child support an ex-spouse is made to pay will vary depending on the divorce agreement, in most cases, child support payments are just meant to cover the basics: food, clothing, housing, and the essential needs of the children. Things like toys, school books, sports, and school supplies are not normally “covered” by child support payments, so the parent with the most parenting time needs to keep that in mind when budgeting their income (including child support) against their expenses.  The Court can, however, enter orders for child support that address these costs outside of the “basic child support obligation” that is calculated per the statute. See below.

Health Insurance

The parent paying for support may also be required to get health insurance for the child through their employer, if their employer offers it, regardless of whether they’re buying health insurance for themselves through their employer. If their employer does not offer it, the parent with the most parenting time may enroll the child in their employer’s healthcare program.  Once the cost of insurance is determined, the new child support guidelines will normally divide this cost of the child’s premium between the parents.

Orders for Supplemental Support

Depending on your unique situation, the court may order the parent who is paying child support to pay for additional expenses, including those related to education for the child, childcare, or any medical or dental costs that are not covered by insurance. It can also include expenses related to extracurricular activities, such as music lessons and sports, as long as those expenses are deemed reasonable and are intended for the wellbeing of the child, their education, and/or their social, cultural, or athletic development.

This is important to remember, especially if your children are in private school and/or are planning on attending college. The price for higher education continues to climb, so it’s common for both parents to chip in to pay those bills. The court may or may not include a supplemental order for the parent with minority parenting time to cover those costs, but either way it’s a good idea for the parents to work out between themselves who will cover how much of those costs. Not only does it make things easier on their post-marriage relationship, but it also makes things easier on the child by ensuring they can focus on what’s really important: getting a good education.

There are many factors included in divorce, especially when children are involved. Ideally, you and your ex can work together to come up with an agreement, but if that’s not possible, at least know your rights so you have some idea of what to expect.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

You’re Getting Married and Your Future Spouse Has an Adopted Child, What Does This Mean for You?

future spouse has an adopted childWhile getting married and having kids is great, and relatively straightforward from a legal perspective, life doesn’t always go that smoothly. Sometimes the kids come before marriage, whether from a prior relationship or through adoption. So what does that mean for you if you’re about to become the newest addition to an existing family?

Marrying someone who has already adopted a child can be especially tricky. How tricky depends on a variety of factors:

  • The child’s age now
  • The child’s age when they were adopted
  • Their history before they were adopted
  • Whether they had a closed adoption

The Child’s Age Now

As with any other adoption, if the child is of a certain age, they have a say in whether they want to be adopted by their new step-parent. If the child does not want to be adopted by you, for any reason, then the adoption can’t move forward. That can be painful, but it’s important to respect their wishes and try to work through any existing issues that may have contributed to that decision.

The Child’s History

The child’s age and their history at the time they were adopted can also be important factors in whether they want to add a legal parent. While some children are adopted very young, and thus have never known any other family, others have lost their biological parents and/or been through the foster system. That can make it hard for the child to learn to put down roots and to trust that people are going to stick around for the long haul. For that reason, offering to adopt them can be a beautiful way to show your commitment, not just to your future spouse, but to their children. At the same time, it could also mean the child is not comfortable being adopted by anyone else, in which case it’s important not to force anything on them, even if they’re not yet of age to have a say.

Whether They Had a Closed Adoption

A closed adoption is when the identities of the birth parents and the adopted parents are not known to each other, in which case adopting your step-child could be fairly straightforward, assuming all parties are on board with the idea. But when the birth parents are still in the picture, it can make things tricky.

There are a variety of reasons this might happen. Your future spouse may personally know and/or be related to their child’s birth parents, but decided to adopt for the good of the child. It could be the biological parents were not ready to have a child and your future spouse was; or the biological parents may have been neglectful or even abusive, and your future spouse stepped up by adopting the child for his or her own good.

In any case, although they do not have legal rights to the child, if the biological parents are still in the picture, they may place some emotional pressure on the situation by expressing their disapproval. They won’t have the ability to formally object in Court, since they are no longer their child’s legal parent, but you may want to take their opinion into consideration to help things go smoothly, especially if the child has any sort of relationship with their biological parents.

Your Future Spouse’s View

Ultimately, it is your future spouse has the final say in all this, and he/she may or may not want you to adopt their child. No matter how well things are going between you two, their first obligation is to look after the best interests of their child.  The tougher the child’s history, the more protective the adopted parent is likely to be of them. If your future spouse doesn’t want you to adopt, don’t take it personally. Just do your best to be an active member of the family, as a child can never have too much love.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What to Do When You Have a Problem Tenant

problem tenantIt’s the situation every landlord dreads: you have a signed lease with a tenant for your property, they’re all moved in, and now they’re causing problems. Depending on the severity of the issues, a simple conversation is all that’s needed. Other issues prove more challenging, so we’ve come up with some tips on the best ways to handle a problem tenant.

Know the Law

The first thing you need to do is research the laws governing rental properties in your area. They vary by state and city, so be sure to get very specific in looking up all the laws that apply to your area. There are statutes designed to prevent landlords from taking advantage of their tenants, but there are also laws that protect landlords. Know your rights and know the rights of your tenants.

Update Your Lease

Ideally, you want to do this try to avoid any problems before they begin by including terms in your lease that define problem areas and what the consequences will be to tenants who don’t act in accordance with the lease agreement. The lease is a contract that defines the relationship between the landlord and the tenant, so it is of the utmost importance that you make your expectations clear in the lease.

In the event that doing so doesn’t successfully avoid problems, it can help you deal with problems when they do arise by laying down the groundwork and a procedure for how you should act if a tenant becomes a problem. If a tenant does become problematic, be sure to stick to your own policies and procedures when dealing with the problem.

Document Everything

This starts with the lease and should go all the way up to eviction (if it comes to that). You should also have your own incident reports people can fill out any time there’s a complaint, and keep in mind this should go both ways. While you’re documenting every time your tenant causes problems, you should also give them a chance to document complaints against you. Provide them with a report they can fill out and make sure you both keep a copy of that report. The report should also include if and how you handled the situation so you can avoid any surprises coming back to bite you.

Any time you get an email or text message from neighbors complaining about your tenant, keep all those emails so you have a record of complaints. Also keep emails and text messages exchanged between you and your tenant and keep notes of conversations and phone calls, even the positive ones.

Late rent payments, warnings, notices served, complaints, and maintenance requests should also all be carefully documented.

If the cops are ever called to come to your rental unit and there’s a police report, get a copy of that report.

Keep It Professional

Plenty of problem tenants have their share of sob stories, and while you should always be respectful and understanding, you are not there to dole out favors. You are there to run a business, and if they’re not holding up their end of the agreement, for any reason, you need to act in accordance with your policies and procedures.

If you have any other questions about how to handle a tenant who’s causing problems for you, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced attorney today.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

The Basics of Renting from a Landlord’s Perspective

rentingRenting out or subleasing a space can be a great way to make a little extra cash, but it can also be a hassle. You’re the one who is ultimately responsible for the space, and yet you’re essentially inviting a stranger to live there for a specified (or sometimes unspecified) amount of time. It’s tricky, so we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you become the best landlord ever.

Set Expectations

Make it clear in the listing how much rent will be as well as what your system is for utilities, deposits, and any application fees you might decide to charge. Being clear and upfront about what you expect from potential renters will make the rest of the process go that much more smoothly.

Once you have someone who wants to rent and to whom you feel comfortable renting the space, make sure your contract lays out all the details. Aside from rent and utilities, you’ll want to include things like:

  • How long the lease will last and what are the conditions and/or consequences for either one of you cancelling the lease;
  • Whether they’re allowed to sublet and under what terms;
  • Whether they’re allowed roommates; if so, how many; and under what terms;
  • If and under what terms you may raise the rent;
  • When rent is due, if there’s a grace period, and if so for how long; and
  • Consequences for failing to pay rent/utilities on time.

Document Everything

Starting before your tenant even moves in, you should get in the habit of documenting everything. Take notes and pictures of the space before they move in so you can tell if they’ve done any damage to it by the time they leave, have an ironclad lease agreement, and document all your conversations. Every email conversation with your tenant should have its own file and all text messages should be saved. You can record phone conversations and even in-person conversations if you feel the need (and you’re not violating any laws). Otherwise you can just take notes of each conversation you have with your tenant and make sure to keep those notes together and in a place where you won’t lose them.

Communication Is Key

Finally, the key to any successful relationship is communication. If you start having concerns after your tenant moves in, don’t hesitate to talk to them about it right away. Dealing with it sooner rather than later makes it easier to stop the problem before it becomes an issue. When addressing any potential problems with your tenant, always approach them calmly and respectfully, explain the issue, and ask them to stop. If they can’t for some reason, try to work with them on a way to make the issue less problematic for everyone involved.

There is no fool-proof way for avoiding problem tenants, but by using the tips we’ve provided here, you can help stop many of the common renter issues before they start. If a problem does arise, dealing with it immediately and in a calm, respectful manner can also help your relationship with your tenant and prevent a situation going from bad to worse.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Defining Domestic Violence: Are You Living In An Abusive Home?

abusive homeThe idea that we may be living in an abusive home can be a tough reality to face. When we love the people who don’t treat us as well as they should, it can be easy to make excuses for them, or even blame ourselves for their behavior.

In fact, that’s one of the biggest red flags that you may be living in an abusive home – when your partner downplays the importance of the abuse, denies it, or blames you for it.

The problem is this: you are never responsible for someone else’s actions. Their choices are their own and no one else’s. No amount of willfulness or thoughtlessness on your part justifies anyone else hitting you, threatening you or your loved ones, or trying to control you.

If you’ve been thinking you might be living in an abusive home, here are some things to consider:

Physical Violence

Physical violence is probably the first thing that comes to mind for most of us when we think of domestic abuse. It can be anything from hitting you to attacking you with a weapon – and keep in mind that almost anything can be considered a weapon. Just because a hardcover book isn’t on a standard list of weapons doesn’t mean someone couldn’t do serious damage with one if they wanted to, which brings us to our next clue to look out for:

They Scare You

You should never be afraid of anyone you live with. If they look at you or behave in any way that scares you, don’t try to brush it off as paranoia. Trust your instincts and get out of there, if you can. If you can’t get out, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

They Threaten You and/or Your Loved Ones

Abusers don’t always have to physically hurt you or anyone else to be considered abusive. Threats can be just as powerful, if not more so, especially if they’re threatening your loved ones – and remember that’s not limited to humans. It can be just as terrifying to have someone threaten to hurt, or even kill, a beloved pet, and if that’s the case, you may be living in an abusive home.

They Control You

Again, abuse isn’t always physical. Oftentimes, it’s more about control than anything else. Sometimes they exercise that control with physical violence and/or threats, other times it’s by controlling the money for the house and/or controlling what you do, where you go, and whom you see.

Anyone who takes your money, makes you ask for money, and/or refuses to give you money for things you need while they’re going on spending sprees, is abusive. By the same token, cutting you off from friends and family is a classic abuse tactic. If they forbid you, or try to stop you, from seeing your friends and family members, they’re abusing you. They want you to be completely dependent on them for everything and that’s never a good situation for you to be in.

No matter your relation to your abuser, you have rights. If you think you may be living in an abusive home, contact a qualified family law attorney today to talk about your options.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

How Do I Provide for a Special Needs Child in My Will?

special needs child in my willFor anyone who has a child or dependent with special needs, leaving that child unprotected and unprovided for is a nightmare that can result in many sleepless nights for parents. As parents, the ideal scenario is that we teach our children to be self-sufficient so they can take care of themselves – and maybe even their own children – after we’re gone. But that’s not always possible when your child has special needs and may or may not be able to hold down a job or take care of their day-to-day needs, much less make responsible financial decisions. So you may be thinking, how do I provide for a special needs child in my will?

In Illinois, an individual with special needs is entitled to receive monthly payments in Supplemental Security Income (SSI), assuming they meet the criteria for their asset worth and monthly income, if any. If they have any sort of income, but it is less than what they’d receive in benefits, then their SSI is reduced until the combination of their income and SSI adds up to the total eligible benefit amount.

Of course, relying solely on SSI may not be sufficient to live on, so parents and loved ones have the option of setting up a Special Needs Trust (a.k.a. Supplemental Needs Trust). A Special Needs Trust may allow someone with special needs to accumulate assets or income that exceed the SSI thresholds, while still getting the maximum amount they can in SSI benefits.

Generally, a Special Needs Trust is set up by a parent or other loved one, who then acts as trustee. Banks often also have people on staff who can manage these trusts for you. Once the trust is set up, a bank account can be opened in the name of the trust and any income (aside from SSI), assets and/or gifts from loved ones can be deposited into the trust bank account.

The trustee is responsible for managing those funds and ensuring they are used only for the trust’s beneficiary, not including room and board, which are supposed to be covered by the SSI. The idea behind the trust is to ensure a good quality of life for the beneficiary by providing a source of disposable income to go towards things they don’t necessarily need, but could still benefit from.

When a parent of a child with special needs is planning for their estate, it is generally recommended that, rather than leaving a typical inheritance for their child, they put that inheritance into that child’s Special Needs Trust instead. This can help avoid the risk of the child losing their SSI eligibility.

As with all estate planning, parents are better off setting up a Special Needs Trust for their children as soon as possible in order to avoid leaving their children high and dry if something were to happen to them. Don’t leave it to someone else to set up the trust after you’ve passed away because that can make things much more complicated and more difficult. Instead, be sure to stay on top of things by getting everything in order now to make sure your child has everything they need after you’re gone.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests.