Plaintiff Settlement Planning
Connecting your catastrophically injured clients with Milestone is the easiest way to help them make the most of their settlement. We’ll take it from there – developing a tailored plan for longevity of their funds, keeping government benefits, and more.
Settlement Planning Strategies
Milestone can provide plaintiffs with guidance on a variety of strategies, such as:
The settlement planning consultants at Milestone have been guiding plaintiffs and their families for decades. Contact us today to help your client make the most of their funds.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does Pathway incorporate plaintiff settlement planning?
Settlement planning is integrated into Milestone’s Pathway platform. The experience is customizable based on the general needs of the claimants in a given litigation. For example, the settlement planning step can provide video resources and literature on spending down settlement money for those with government benefits. Or, Pathway can provide a full settlement planning feature that gives claimants the option to receive a call from a member of our team. If they choose to explore settlement planning, we will discuss all their available options, including trusts, traditional and investment-backed periodic payments, and more.
Does settlement planning just lead to a structured settlement annuity?
Plaintiffs have options beyond a structured settlement annuity, though it is still a good choice for some. Others choose an investment-backed payment arrangement. Individuals with government benefits like Medicaid and SSI might set up a special needs trust to supplement their benefits and help them maintain eligibility. Those with Medicare need to comply in unique ways, and a settlement planner can guide them properly. Other trusts, like a domestic asset protection trust, help provide asset security. There is no fee for a plaintiff to consult with Milestone about settlement planning.
How does a structured settlement (periodic payments) work?
A structured settlement allows an injured party to defer part, or all, of their settlement money. The plaintiff receives smaller payments on a schedule they have chosen, instead of all at once.
Structured settlements are customizable. A settlement planning expert works with the plaintiff to review long-term medical, living, and family-related expenses and come up with a plan. A third-party company then funds the payments using the settlement the defendant has paid. Based on the plaintiff’s chosen payment schedule, the company provides a series of tax-free payments over time.
What will Milestone discuss with my client when exploring a periodic payment schedule?
If receiving payments is a good choice for your client, one of our settlement planning consultants will discuss with them:
- How much of the settlement funds they need immediately,
- If the payments should come in for a set number of years or the rest of their life,
- How often they will receive payments,
- The size of the payments, and
- Whether the amount should change over time.
When deciding between receiving a one-time lump sum payment and periodic payments, it’s important for your client to think about their personal financial goals and plan for long-term financial security. By receiving payments over time, they can manage their money more easily into the future.
How does a structured settlement help plaintiffs financially?
A structured settlement provides a long-term, steady stream of tax-free income. Historically, personal injury lawsuits paid damages as single lump sums. Though a single lump sum may provide temporary financial relief, managing a sum of money can be overwhelming. Additionally, for those receiving income-based benefits, receipt of a lump sum may result in loss of Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or other means-tested government programs.
Congress recognized the need to protect injured plaintiffs from these risks and passed legislation to amend the Federal Tax Code, resulting in The Periodic Payment Settlement Act of 1983 (Public Law 97-473). This act formally recognizes and encourages the use of structured settlement payments in physical injury cases.
What are some of the advantages of creating a structured settlement?
- Freedom from the time and emotional burden associated with investigating, assessing, and selecting investment strategies.
- Flexibility in the amount the client receives and the timing and frequency at which they receive it.
- Assurance that injured clients’ structured payments are exempt from federal and state income taxes.
- Contentment for clients in knowing that they have a steady stream of income.
How does a special needs trust work?
There are generally two types of special needs trusts. Depending on your unique situation, one may be a better fit for your client.
A pooled special needs trust is managed by a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation formed to provide trustee, trust administration and advocacy services for the disabled, elderly, minor children and those seeking spendthrift trust protection. The nonprofit pools the assets from all the participants together while maintaining and tracking individual trust sub-accounts.
A private special needs trust is a personalized disability trust drafted and prepared by a local trust attorney. Typically, a private special needs trust is used when a person has a large amount (i.e. greater than $250,000) to deposit into the trust. To utilize a private special needs trust you must generally be under age 65, have been determined to be disabled and the trust must be created by a parent, grandparent, guardian or the court.
Special needs trusts are flexible and can greatly improve quality of life. The trust funds can pay for a variety of supplemental goods and services, including:
- Special medical or exercise equipment generally,
- Handicap-equipped primary automobile,
- A home (but not necessarily its maintenance), and
- Many other goods and services that Milestone can discuss with your client.
The specifics of what a special needs trust can cover depends on the public benefits your client receives. Timing is critical, however. A client must create or join a special needs trust before accepting the settlement proceeds.
How does a domestic asset protection trust work?
When a person receives a settlement, a variety of unexpected future financial issues could put those assets at risk. Divorce, starting a business, or another life event can dissipate the money over time. Additionally, bankruptcy or another catastrophic loss can be immediately impactful. Both scenarios cause a person to benefit far less from that large lump sum. Establishing a domestic asset protection trust (DAPT) is one way to protect against these risks.
A DAPT is an irrevocable trust that offers an opportunity for lifelong planning and financial protection. The goal is to shield the interest of the beneficiary by protecting the assets against creditor claims. Anyone can get a DAPT to protect assets at any time.