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Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Last updated on: October 25, 2023

Families with special needs children have unique challenges to navigate. Everyone wants their child to live a full, productive, and rewarding life. Each child is different, and parents consider other factors to allow their children to achieve that.

For parents of special needs children, one of those is understanding Supplemental Security Income. Not only is it essential to get it for your children (when applicable), but it is just as important as ensuring they continue to have it. It is a tremendous resource for your child to make use of. You don’t want to accidentally jeopardize their eligibility—even when your intentions are rooted in a desire to protect your child. Because your children may grow up and rely on this SSI, you must consider this when drafting your estate plan.

Gain a comprehensive understanding of Supplemental Security Income and financial planning with the guidance of a skilled New Jersey special needs trust attorney. At The Matus Law Group, our attorneys can help in navigating the intricacies of SSI benefits, ensuring you understand eligibility criteria, application procedures, and potential impact on your loved one’s financial future. Contact us today at (732) 281-0060 and let us help you secure the financial support your family deserves.

Because your children may grow up and rely on this SSI, you must consider this when drafting your estate plan

An Overview

Supplemental Security Income is not the same as Social Security benefits–despite how SSI is administered by Social Security. And people who receive SSI may also get Social Security benefits. There are primary and fundamental differences between the two.

Social Security is something people pay into throughout their working lives. SSI, however, is funded by taxes and is given to those who are blind or disabled. Disabled people are people whose condition could result in death or are unable to pursue gainful employment.

People who are 65 and older who are living on restricted incomes may be eligible as well. Other requirements include:

  • Being a U.S. citizen
  • Having limited incomes and resources (more in the next section)
  • Lives in the U.S. permanently
  • Does not live in a government-funded institution

The institution being referred to would be most closely related to a hospital. Many disabled adults live in communal homes with live-in care. That fact, by itself, would not disqualify them from SSI. 

Essential Person SSI

An SSI essential person in the United States is an individual who resides with an SSI beneficiary and provides crucial care. This role may involve a child caring for a parent or a live-in caretaker. However, the criteria defining an essential person are exceptionally strict:

  • The person must have held the role of an essential person as of December 1973.
  • They are required to fulfill the responsibilities of a caregiver.
  • Continuous living with the SSI recipient since December 1973 is required.
  • The essential person must have never been eligible for SSI benefits themselves.
  • They should not have qualified for State assistance since December 1973.

Meeting all of these requirements designates an individual as an essential person. 

According to the Department of Social Security, an essential person plays a crucial role as a caregiver for individuals who are recipients of SSI benefits. A deeper comprehension of what constitutes an essential person necessitates a broader understanding of the Social Security system as a whole. The Social Security Act of 1935 was enacted with the primary purpose of offering financial support to disabled workers, senior citizens, and those who are without employment. This assistance was designed to help them meet their basic living expenses.

Only a limited number of individuals meet the strict criteria necessary to be designated as an SSI essential person and thus qualify for SSI benefits coverage. These requirements have been implemented to gradually phase out the concept of an SSI essential person. However, if you meet the following conditions, either you or your caregiver will still fall under this classification.

When it comes to navigating the complex landscape of essential person SSI, a New Jersey special needs trust attorney is your invaluable ally. At The Matus Law Group, our attorneys can help in crafting comprehensive legal solutions tailored to your specific situation, ensuring your loved ones receive the SSI benefits they deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards securing a brighter future for your family.

How To Lose SSI

There are several ways in which someone can lose their SSI. This includes everything from displaying medical improvement to reaching retirement age. But more specifically, people who receive SSI have a limit to how much income they can earn. Secondly, their assets cannot exceed $2000.

Why are these numbers significant? When you draft an estate plan, these numbers are of vital importance. Parents worked to obtain SSI for their children because they wanted a degree of comfort knowing their children have a means of generating income. 

Because their assets and income have to fall below a specific threshold, you can disrupt that—inadvertently—by leaving a special needs adult something of significant value, such as a home. 

Reasons for Losing SSI Description
Medical Improvement Individuals can lose SSI if they show medical improvement and are no longer considered disabled.
Reaching Retirement Age SSI benefits generally cease when recipients reach the age of retirement, as they transition to Social Security retirement benefits.
Exceeding Income Limit SSI recipients must not exceed a specified income limit to continue receiving benefits.
Exceeding Asset Limit SSI recipients must maintain their assets below $2000 to remain eligible for benefits.
Impact on Estate Planning Estate planning for individuals with special needs must consider the asset and income limits associated with SSI eligibility.
Leaving Significant Assets to a Special Needs Adult Inadvertently leaving valuable assets, like a home, to a special needs adult can disrupt their SSI eligibility.

Matus Law Group

At the Matus Law Group, we want to help you draft an estate plan that not only provides for the special needs person in your life. And we can work towards achieving this without disrupting vital benefits such as SSI. If you have further questions or would like to meet, contact us today to set up a consultation. 

We look forward to discovering how we can assist you and your family.

Christine Matus

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Christine Matus

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