Many attorneys are missing out on the outstanding benefits of deferring their fees. Why? They think they have to wait  for a massive fee to come along – one that isn’t already spoken for before it arrives.

Simply put, trial lawyers — partners, associates, and those who just passed the bar — should start planning their wealth accumulation strategies immediately. In addition to putting in the hours of tireless legal work, financial success comes from having an overall plan in place for building wealth and managing cash flow. It should start at the beginning and grow alongside your professional success. It’s also important to note that there is no minimum amount to be deferred.

advantages to fee deferring

For many trial lawyers, deferring attorney fees can be one effective piece to the overall plan. In a previous post, I outlined the major factors attorneys should know about deferred fees including:

  • Deferred compensation can be considered an extension to your savings plan.
  • The IRS limits how much a person can defer in any one tax year, unless he or she is a trial lawyer working on contingency (then it’s unlimited).
  • Not all partners in a firm have to participate in fee deferrals.
  • Structured fees operate outside of 409A.

When considering these factors, it’s important to remember that a consistent and well-planned approach to deferral and accumulation can make a big difference over a decade. Of course, before planning, implementing, and sticking to a plan in the long-term, a trial attorney must be financially ready.

Deferring fees could be the answer to your long-term financial planning as a trial lawyer, but it’s important to speak with an expert before making a move. To explore your options, I welcome you to contact Milestone Consulting to get started.

 

 

Contact Milestone Co-Founder John Bair

John Bair is co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

At Milestone Consulting, we have helped many families protect the financial futures of their children with special needs. We implement plans that involve trusts, Medicare set-asides and much more in order to ensure their settlement and other income are being used as appropriately and efficiently as possible. Through the relationships I have built over the years with these clients, I have seen parents’ dedication to giving their children the best life possible.

Unfortunately, information about special needs activity programs isn’t as readily available as it should be in some areas of the country. But many organizations out there offer outstanding programs that bring joy and other lasting benefits. Below are two we find particularly noteworthy, as well as a list of resources we hope you’ll find helpful.

horseback riding for special needs

Equine-Assisted Therapy

Equine-Assisted Therapy [EAT], also known as equestrian therapy, uses horses to help promote emotional growth in people with special needs. Equestrian therapy has been particularly noted for assisting children and adults with special needs stemming from the following:

  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Autism
  • Behavioral and mental health issues
  • Brain injuries
  • Dementia
  • Delay in mental development
  • Genetic syndromes

Click here for more information about some of the facilities around the country that offer equestrian therapy programs.

Sports Leagues Specifically Designed for Special Needs

No matter your child’s level of physical or cognitive ability, there is likely a sports league nearby that will welcome them to the team. For example, the Miracle League is a national organization that’s dedicated to welcoming all people with special needs to play baseball. The league removes the barriers that keep children and adults with mental and physical limitations from playing on conventional baseball fields. Since 2000, the Miracle League has grown to include 300 Miracle League groups across the country and in Puerto Rico, Canada, and Australia. More than 200,000 people with special needs participate, so chances are, there’s a field near you.

More Resources

There are numerous organizations that help families connect with programs and activities best suited for their special needs children. When looking for options near you, consider connecting with some of the below.

National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD)

www.ncpad.org

BlazeSports America (U.S. Disabled Athletes Fund)

http://www.blazesports.com

Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA)

http://www.dsusa.org

National Recreation and Parks Association

http://www.nrpa.org

National Sports Center for the Disabled

www.nscd.org

National Ability Center

www.discovernac.org

 

 

About John Bair

John Bair is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant. He helps families develop strategies to provide lifelong financial support for children with disabilities, catastrophic injuries, special needs, and congenital abnormalities. Read more about John’s work and his firm, Milestone Consulting, at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

 

Most people may not know about “plaintiff funding” until they find themselves in litigation, struggling to make ends meet while they await a settlement. While your world may stop due to a catastrophic accident, unfortunately the world around you will not. Bills still have to get paid, rent or mortgage must be met, food has to be put on the table, etc. But when you’re in litigation, and often out of work, it’s hard to find the resources to meet these basic needs.

Historically, the for-profit plaintiff-funding industry has taken advantage of the individuals in this exact situation. At the Bairs Foundation, we believe that funding litigants and their families is a necessary part of Americans’ access to justice.

questions about lawsuit loan

We have paged through countless FAQ pages created by the unregulated, for-profit non-recourse lending industry. To show how our non-profit, the Bairs Foundation, is changing the model of non-recourse advances, and to make sure the public is properly educated and empowered when it comes to pre-settlement funding, we’ve started a series of our own answers.

If you have a question we have not yet addressed, feel free to post it in the comments. This post is the first in a series of blog posts about legal funding for plaintiffs.

I’m in the middle of litigation, and I’m draining my funds. Is there any way I can get some financial assistance?

When seeking financial assistance from a third party, plaintiffs generally have two borrowing options: recourse and non-recourse. These two options differ in how borrowers are obligated to pay back the money they owe.

If a person receives a recourse advance during litigation and loses his or her lawsuit and cannot pay back the debt, the company is allowed to seize that person’s assets, sue to garnish his or her wages, and otherwise file collection actions to get their money back.

If a person receives a non-recourse advance, he or she is not personally obligated to pay back the company with assets upon losing the lawsuit. In that case, the non-recourse company simply loses its money because it agreed in advance to only recover against the lawsuit.

Non-recourse advances are generally more attractive than recourse advances, because borrowers do not risk losing their property if they lose their lawsuit. However, the non-recourse industry is unregulated and can therefore charge astronomical interest rates. These staggering interest rates can end up costing a plaintiff over 100% of the amount they originally borrowed. The risk these companies take is how they often validate their high rates. However, it’s the plaintiff who is likely to suffer the financial burden in the long run.

The Bairs Foundation offers an alternative to plaintiffs that doesn’t involve staggering interest rates OR seizing assets. We provide financial assistance at the compassionate and fair rate of 7% simple interest.

What can I use the money for?

Many litigants who receive an advance during litigation use the funding to pay for basic life necessities — such as bills, groceries, and other expenses — until their lawsuit concludes and they have a chance to get back on their feet.

Can’t I just ask my attorney to fund me?

The American Bar Association (ABA) prohibits attorneys from lending money to clients for their basic needs. This rule prevents a conflict of interest in the attorney-client relationship.

How soon can I receive a non-recourse advance?

Many companies in the non-recourse industry say they can provide plaintiffs with financial assistance almost immediately — some as fast as the next day. They also offer to advance as much as possible and as frequently as plaintiffs need it. Receiving financial help right away can be a huge help right now, but there’s a long-term catch. These for-profit companies know they’ll make tons of money on the interest if they win their lawsuit.

At the Bairs Foundation, we care about the fact that any amount a person borrows will cost him or her down the road, so we take extra time to consult with families to make sure we’re giving them only what they need. While our team does take into consideration particularly urgent issues, a person could receive funds from the Foundation in about 10 to 15 business days once a request is approved.

 

 

More Questions? Ask Bairs Foundation Founder John Bair

John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process. Motivated by a desire to assist others in protecting their financial well-being, John and his wife Amy established the Bairs Foundation. At seven percent simple interest, the organization provides the financial assistance families need during litigation. Read more at http://www.bairsfoundation.org/.

 

As parents, we always want our kids to be safe, healthy, and happy. So, naturally, news that your special needs child is dealing with a bully at school can evoke a range of strong emotions.

bully special needs

Although it goes against our instinct of protecting our young, it’s important to remember to stay calm if your kid is facing a bully, and take the correct steps to ensure the situation ends efficiently and appropriately.

Looking for Signs of Bullying

Your child might not go to you right away if he or she is dealing with a bully at school. However, there are certain signs that hint at the problem. According to an article by Stomp Out Bullying, parents should do the following:

  • Listen to what your child is telling you
  • Pay attention to changes in your child’s moods
  • Never ignore self-destructive behaviors
  • Look out for changes in your child’s sleeping habits
  • Take note if your child’s grades begin to fall
  • Inquire about any reports of lost possessions

Parents of kids with special needs may have to pay closer attention or do some extra sleuthing to get to the bottom of what’s happening at school.

What to Do if Your Child is Being Bullied

First and foremost, make sure your child is safe. Keep your child home and/or contact local police if your child was assaulted or threatened with assault.

You and your child have rights set by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, both of which protect children with disabilities. Before taking any action, ensure you have a good understanding of both Acts.

Next, gather as much information as possible. According to an article by Friendship Circle, “Get as much information as possible about the incident(s), names of those involved, what happened, was there adult supervision, and if so, who was there and what did they do?  Getting this information will help you be organized when you approach the school for a solution.”

Once you have some information to work with, report the bullying to school officials immediately. Share every detail you have about the situation, such as dates and times, locations and people involved in the bullying. Friendship Circle also notes that most schools have a code of conduct policy that “prohibit unwelcome verbal, written, or physical conduct, directed at the characteristics of specific enumerated groups.” While students with special needs are not always included as a group particularly protected from bullying and harassment under these policies, it’s critical to know the rules your school has in place and to ensure they’re adequately enforcing them for your child.

Chances are, your child is stressed out by the bullying situation at school. At home, make sure he or she has a strong support system. Friends and other supportive people are essential to building confidence and preventing future bullying issues.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

If you’re a parent with a special needs child, you likely have questions about his or her well-being. John Bair can help. He is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant. He helps families develop strategies to provide lifelong financial support for children with disabilities, catastrophic injuries, special needs, and congenital abnormalities. Read more about John’s work and his firm, Milestone Consulting, at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

As co-founders of the Bairs Foundation, my wife Amy and I know that in our civil justice system, funding plaintiffs and their families during litigation is frequently needed. Complex cases can be financial marathons, and plaintiffs sometimes run out of money before their lawsuit concludes.

However, we have also witnessed firsthand the caustic effect non-recourse lending has had on thousands of individual plaintiffs. That’s why we started the Bairs Foundation — to change the norm for non-recourse lending. Our team works hard every day to give plaintiffs a lending option that won’t financially cripple them, and we commend any effort beyond our foundation that protects plaintiffs’ rights by extension.

In 2013, the Colorado State Court of Appeals ruled that businesses providing cash advances to plaintiffs are lending money and therefore should be regulated as such. The decision upholds a ruling that sided with Attorney General John Suthers’ decision in 2010 that under state law, litigation-finance companies must register as lenders.

how much is my lawsuit worth

The ruling prompted Oasis Legal Finance and LawCash to file suit against Colorado State, arguing that advancing funds is different than providing loans. The state counter-sued and won.

“Litigation-advance companies take advantage of consumers in desperate financial situations,” said Jan Zavislan, deputy attorney general for consumer protection, told the Denver Post after the ruling in 2013. “The Colorado Court of Appeals recognized that Colorado law protects consumers from such predatory practices.”

We at the Bairs Foundation commend the Colorado State Court of Appeals for acting as a leader in the movement to crack down on unregulated non-recourse lawsuit lenders. States’ attorneys general can make a difference to millions of plaintiffs if they would take up similar cases, and we urge them to do so as soon as possible.

About John Bair

John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process. Motivated by a desire to assist others in protecting their financial well-being, John and his wife Amy established the Bairs Foundation. At seven percent simple interest, the organization provides the financial assistance families need during litigation. Read more at http://www.bairsfoundation.org/.

Millions of people with special needs rely on government programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid to pay for for essential goods and services. When a person receives an inheritance or settlement, however, the extra cash can impact his or her eligibility for benefits.

how to keep medicare eligibility

Establishing a special needs trust is one way to work around this issue. Money “gifted” to a special needs trust doesn’t count towards an individual’s assets or income, so it won’t interfere with SSI and Medicaid benefits. But managing a special needs trust isn’t easy.

The caveat to a special needs trust’s power of program compliance is that trustees cannot just give money directly to the trust’s beneficiary. Instead, the trustee can spend assets in the trust to purchase a variety of goods and services – all to improve the life of the trust’s beneficiary.

Which Resources Can Special Needs Trusts Cover?

Special needs trusts are designed to supplement, but not replace, SSI and Medicaid. The assets in a special needs trust pay for items that fall into two categories:

  1. “Special needs,” meaning nonessential goods and services, and/or
  2. “Luxuries” that government benefit programs don’t pay for.

The money in a special needs trust can pay for anything that government benefits don’t cover, and these items are considered “non-countable.” Non-countable purchases that can be made from a special needs trust include items like the following:

  • One home, as long as it can be considered the person’s primary residence
  • Home furnishings and personal belongings.
  • One motor vehicle
  • Programs that use the funds to achieve educational or work goals
  • Essentials for self-support, including certain purchases that will be used to work
  • Life insurance policies (limited)
  • Burial expenses of no more than $1,500.

In some cases, a trustee can decide that, while making a payment may threaten a portion of the beneficiary’s government payments, that loss is still justified under the circumstances. Some particularly important expenditures may warrant taking a cut in benefits for the month. Of course, this is a determination that should be made after consulting an attorney well-versed in special needs trust law.

Which Purchases Affect Benefits Eligibility?

SSI benefits are limited to individuals with $2,000 or less of countable resources. If a trustee gives the beneficiary countable assets that will likely affect the individual’s eligibility for SSI and Medicaid. Countable assets include the following (and others):

  • Cash (intended for any purpose)
  • Food and groceries
  • Meals at restaurants (unless given as occasional gifts)
  • Homes that are not the beneficiary’s primary residence
  • Rent and utility payments
  • Mortgage payments
  • Property taxes
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Investment accounts
  • Retirement assets, like an IRA or 401(k)

Sometimes, a payment for countable resources does not eliminate the beneficiary’s eligibility completely. Giving a beneficiary $2,000 in cash likely would, since that’s the limit for SSI eligibility. But paying for assets less than $2,000 will reduce, but not terminate, SSI payments in the month that the payment is made. SSI benefits are reduced dollar-for-dollar, so every dollar spent on countable resources is one dollar less in benefits.

John Bair Can Answer Your Questions

If you have questions about establishing a special needs trust or implementing other strategies for maintaining benefits eligibility, we can help. John Bair is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant. He helps families develop strategies to provide lifelong financial support for children with disabilities, catastrophic injuries, special needs, and congenital abnormalities. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

Without a doubt, there are multiple fundamental financial disparities between class action lawsuits and individual cases. For one, class action lawyer fees do not come from a contingency agreement and are instead ordered by the court. Because of these and other differences, there is a common misconception that class action attorneys can’t defer their fees.

can class action lawyers defer fees

Fact: Class Action Lawyers Can Defer Fees

Class action fees can still be structured into periodic payments, and the attorneys can receive the same deferment benefits other trial lawyers have. These advantages include:

  • Accumulating wealth on a pretax basis,
  • Deferring income to yield a lower tax bracket,
  • Creating a steady flow of income in an unpredictable field,
  • Replacing buy/sell partnership insurance with pretax dollars, and
  • Building a generational strategy toward gifting, philanthropy and family.

There are some considerations and technical nuances involved in establishing periodic payments – about which Robert W. Wood’s article has long-standing precedence. It’s important for any attorney to be well-informed about these factors before deciding if deferring fees is the right tool for his or her own situation.

To Defer or Not to Defer? Factors for Class Action Attorneys

Historically, deferring lawyer fees is a financial planning tool that mass tort and individual case attorneys have used to build wealth. Deciding whether to elect a periodic payment obligation comes down to three factors:

  1. Evaluating whether deferment is possible based on the attorney’s and firm’s financial needs
  2. Deciding on the best product for the payment stream, such as a private wealth portfolio, permanent insurance, or equity or fixed annuities
  3. Planning and customizing the distribution plan so wealth can accumulate and become available at an optimal time

As long as the court orders a qualified settlement fund into existence, class action attorneys can elect periodic payment obligations as their distribution of choice.  If the choice is right for them, structured fees can be an exceptionally useful tool to accumulate wealth and financial success.

Get the Information You Need to Make a Sound Decision

John Bair has guided many attorneys through the deferment process as co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team assesses the best outcome and finds the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

When you filed your lawsuit, you gathered a team of legal experts that aim to obtain the best outcome in your case. So, as you approach settlement, doesn’t it make sense to build another team with the financial expertise needed to ensure your recovery is as useful as possible?

what does a settlement planner do

People who have substantial wealth typically seek the help of experts to help manage their money. Specialists like CPAs, portfolio and investment managers, legal advisers, and others work together to ensure the best decisions are made regarding investments, budgeting, and more. Similarly, a comprehensive settlement planning firm provides clients with the expertise and support to help them make informed decisions about their financial future.

Why Might I Need Comprehensive Settlement Planning?

In a nutshell, a comprehensive settlement planning firms will assess your future needs and financial goals and use that information to develop a settlement plan.

Education is key to staying on the same page and making durable decisions about your settlement. The expert will assist you and your attorney in building a framework of knowledge prior to settlement. The goal is to ensure you both have a strong understanding about your options, so you can make sound decisions with the settlement proceeds.

During the life of your settlement, your planner manages financial challenges including:

  • Repayment of any funding borrowed during litigation
  • Liens
  • Marital disputes
  • Preserving government benefits and programs like Medicare and SSI

The settlement planner will also make recommendations for investment management and stewarding the assets recovered in your settlement for long periods of time. If appropriate, he or she can develop a structured annuity, include it as part of the overall financial plan, and confirm the structure is properly included in the settlement terms.

What if the Plaintiff is My Child (a Minor)?

If the plaintiff in the settlement is your injured child, there are additional and much more specific needs to take into consideration when setting up his or her future. For example, your settlement planner will explore trust solutions with you that will enable optimal care for your child. If a special needs trust or other type is the best option, he or she can interview trust officers and trust companies and develop recommendations there as well.

Getting the Support and Advocacy You Need

The heart of the settlement planner’s role is considering the totality of your family’s needs and connecting those needs with the right solutions. The result is a concrete and reliable recommendation on how to achieve and sustain financial security with your settlement recovery.

For many plaintiffs, settlement planning is the next logical step in the getting the right advice, expertise and support for their lawsuit. If you’re approaching settlement, contact Milestone Consulting to see how we can build your settlement team and what our experts can do for you. Milestone is a broad-based settlement planning and management firm with a comprehensive and future-focused approach.

John Bair’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each case. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

If you’re approaching the conclusion of your lawsuit, you have probably heard you might need to set up a Medicare set-aside (MSA) to protect your Medicare benefits. An MSA is an amount of money you, your attorney, and a settlement planning expert determines will show a good-faith effort to fund your future care without relying solely on Medicare.

How much to establish an MSA

When is a Medicare Set-Aside NOT Necessary?

If a client is Medicare-eligible but no amount of the settlement was intended for future medical care — for example, if the settlement only covers past damages and wages — an MSA is most likely not recommended.

On the other hand, Medicare can deny payment on surgery and other medical care if some part of the settlement was meant to cover the future surgery and no effort was made to adequately consider Medicare’s interests. Having a financial expert establish an MSA ahead of time avoids that pitfall — when the time comes that you need surgery or other care in the future.

How Much Money Should Be in My MSA?

Knowing the appropriate amount of money to set aside in your MSA is critical for adequately complying with Medicare. Four factors help determine what’s appropriate:

  1. The full amount of your settlement;
  2. If you went to trial or arbitration, the full value of your case;
  3. The amount recovered from your case that is allocated to future medical expenses;
  4. How much Medicare-allowable medical treatment you’ll need over your lifetime.  

The process of determining how much money should be in an MSA is all about numbers. Medicare also references this table to help determine a person’s life expectancy, which impacts how much he or she should put aside.

The most difficult part of the settlement and financial planning process is trusting someone early on to explain what’s going on and how you need to move forward. That’s what we do. No matter where in the U.S. you live, please feel free to call for a free consultation on how to set up an MSA or to evaluate whether you need one.

 

 

Contact Author John Bair for Settlement Planning Help

If you’re considering establishing an MSA with some of your case recovery, you likely have more questions. John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process as co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each case. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

 

Many of our clients have dealt with the loss of a loved one after an accident or other unexpected situation. The grief that ensues is painful for anyone to handle, and sharing the news with a special needs child can add to the difficulty.

Will she understand the concept of death? Is he going to be fearful of his own death after this experience? Many questions will naturally arise.

discussing death with a special needs child

As parents, we know our children best and how they generally process information. When sharing the news about a loved one’s passing with any child, particularly a special needs child, it’s important to modify your language accordingly. Jennifer Cerbasi, a teacher specialized in the autism spectrum and coordinator of home Applied Behavioral Analysis programs, recommends keeping the following steps in mind when tailoring your conversations. Although her suggestions are intended for children with autism, these concepts can be applied to children with a variety of needs and learning abilities.

State the facts: Share the news in a way the child will best understand. If he or she is a concrete thinker, for example, Cerbasi recommends explaining that you won’t be seeing the person anymore. It’s also important to state why the person passed away, so it doesn’t seem like a random occurrence.

Incorporate values and/or religious beliefs: If applicable, explain religious customs, concepts, or traditions relating to the person’s death.

Acknowledge the child’s feelings: Be clear that feeling sad, angry, or confused is acceptable after someone dies. Model appropriate expression of emotion so your child can pick up on cues.

Help the child process the situation and prepare for what is to come: Depending on how your child learns best, writing a story together or drawing pictures can help him or her process what has happened. It’s also important to explain what people might say at the funeral and services and how the day may go.

Death isn’t easy for anyone to deal with, but your child with special needs may experience particular difficulty. By taking the time to work through the grieving process together, you can minimize confusion and get on the right track to moving forward.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

If you’re a parent with a special needs child, you likely have questions about his or her well-being. John Bair can help. He is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant. He helps families develop strategies to provide lifelong financial support for children with disabilities, catastrophic injuries, special needs, and congenital abnormalities. Read more about John’s work and his firm, Milestone Consulting, at http://milestoneseventh.com/.