Settlement planning is a unique and expanding area of law that is designed to help individuals preserve benefits that have been received from a personal injury settlement, inheritance or judgment. The practice encompasses an array of legal services such as special needs planning, estate planning and financial planning. The objective is to assist clients with resolving claims and to create a structure to properly manage the funds.
Settlement planning is particularly designed for minors, individuals with disabilities, adults who lack capacity and individuals who are receiving public benefits. Without careful planning, those who receive a large settlement or other proceeds may have difficulty managing these funds. In addition, individuals who receive benefits may lose their eligibility for vital government aid.
This area of law relies on a multi-disciplinary approach that requires the collaboration of a qualified network of professionals including personal injury attorneys, financial planners, CPAs, and trust and estates attorneys. Their combined efforts are geared toward helping clients maintain their quality of life and plan their financial future.
Accomplishing these objectives often requires establishing a variety of complex planning mechanisms such as special needs trusts, structured settlement annuities, and guardianships. In so doing, there are a number of related considerations, including:
Identification of Public Assistance Programs
Medicare and Medicaid Lien Resolution
Medicare Set Aside Arrangements
Structured Settlement Planning
Identifying Qualified Fiduciaries
Trust Administration Support
Because each case is unique, it is crucial to tailor a settlement plan to the client's circumstances. Nonetheless, a typical plan addresses matters such as financial needs and planning, estate planning concerns, tax planning, or establishing guardianships for minors. Lastly, this area of law also requires proving ongoing comprehensive legal services to trustees to assist them with meeting their fiduciary obligations.
In short, settlement planning dovetails with estate planning for purposes of providing for a client's lifetime needs, establishing and achieving financial goals, and if necessary, maintaining eligibility for public benefits. In the end, individuals who are scheduled to receive a settlement, inheritance or judgment should engage the services of an attorney with experience in settlement planning.