When distributing funds to clients who are a part of large mass tort inventories, qualified settlement fund administrators will typically “just send a check.” This practice is the longstanding norm in the industry. Law firms may also provide some guidance in writing related to benefits preservation, structured settlements, and so on. However, I believe this is not enough. Best practices demand us to center the client and think through how a monetary recovery will impact his or her individual outcome.
While some people may benefit from receiving a $50,000 check in the mail, other people may lose their SNAP benefits, their healthcare, and their housing credit as soon as that money comes in — ultimately resulting in them losing their access to food, shelter, and healthcare. What an attorney has achieved as a good recovery then ends up burdening the rest of the client’s life in other ways. In that scenario, the client’s experience was not centered.
At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the attorneys organizing these large inventories to ensure their clients are receiving the best advice. Milestone is strategically situated to handle thousands of client inquiries from a mass tort while providing individualized advice to each plaintiff.
While some plaintiffs may benefit from receiving a million-dollar settlement check in the mail, other people may squander their opportunity to build on a generational asset. There are tools available to ensure that, regardless of an individual plaintiff’s financial planning savvy, the hard-earned settlement is as beneficial as possible and does not impact any government benefits. Some of these tools include:
- A traditional structured settlement or investment-backed structure
- Domestic asset protection trust to protect from future creditors
- Special needs trust to ensure their settlement doesn’t go only to healthcare costs
Clients can take advantage of specific programs to meet their needs and utilize keys in the tax code that were created in part for their benefit.