These past few weeks, I've been kept busy with paperwork and making multiple decisions regarding Bob's soon-to-be trust fund.
It's a lot to wrap my brain around.
Now, initially, and following our trial attorney's advice, my thought was to deposit the annuity money into a Special Needs Trust (SNT) for Bob's "care and comfort". In fact, I was ready to sign on the dotted line until a meeting (last month) with the trust attorneys and the settlement consultant threw me for a loop. Turns out an SNT is more complicated than it looks, with all these weird rules and regulations, some of which don't make a lick of sense.
For example, the SNT is supposed to provide money for Bob's "care and comfort" but it will NOT pay the electric bill, or the water bill, or the mortgage payment. It will however pay for the cable TV and it will pay for a down payment on a house. Oh-kay. Does this make sense? And it will pay for Boomer and Ripley and Zenith's vet bills. But it will NOT pay for health insurance for Bob's wife (ie. me).... Huh? It also will NOT pay property taxes or property insurance or even food. BUT it would pay to throw a huge party for 500 people for Bob's enjoyment!
Basically, all these rules and regulations are set forth by, you guessed it, the federal government and therefore, an SNT will not pay for any "basic shelter-related expenses" and it will not pay for "food" (unless of course you're throwing a party) and it will not pay for anything that is "primarily for the benefit of another person" (i.e: me). And you know, the government knows best and is always looking out for our best interest...
Anyway! The trust attorneys were trying to tell me that this was the best route to go, that in order to get around some of these rules, the trust could pay me a salary for being Bob's primary caregiver (it will pay for a caregiver) and then I could use this salary to pay for things like electric/water/sewer bills and property taxes and house insurance and health insurance for me, plus anything else I needed like clothes and such. AND, they tell me, THE GOOD NEWS IS UNDER THIS TYPE OF TRUST FUND: YOU CAN KEEP RECEIVING FOOD STAMPS!!!
AND, NOT ONLY THAT, BUT BOB CAN KEEP HIS CREEPY SHARE-OF-COST MEDICAID! (which, by the way, hasn't paid a dime for anything all the while he's had that.)
I am, of course, shocked and dumbfounded at this point and think the whole thing is completely ridiculous -- and I tell the trust attorneys and the settlement consultant that I need to think about this before signing on the dotted line.
And I spent a lot of time thinking, researching, and pulling out my hair, but figured out that if I took a salary out of the trust fund it would probably disqualify us from food stamps and creepy share-of-cost medicaid anyway, and then had a long talk with our trial attorney's wonderful assistant -- who was also dumbfounded. She makes a few calls to some other trust attorneys, then she meets with the settlement consultant and contacts our trust attorney and finally, after multiple calls/meetings, comes up with a solution of another type of trust fund called a "Trigger Trust" which is still protected like a special needs trust but without all the really stupid government regulations, and it can be converted into an SNT if Bob ever needed it, i.e.: say I got hit by a bus and Bob ended up in a nursing home... And I can cancel the food stamps! So, phew!
Next, I had to pick a "trustee". Which I finally did, after interviews, then research and calling references, etc. I decided to go with a small local agency instead of a large national corporation, just for the more "hands-on" help, especially at the beginning. Besides, I don't really trust large, national corporations...
Then, I was told by the settlement consultant that I had to decide on a monthly budget amount, which would be the amount the trust would automatically deposit into our checking account each month for basic expenses. This was no easy task. I mean, you're looking at a woman who has spent the last four years being extremely frugal. And, even then, our current monthly "budget" leaves us $200 in the hole at the end of the month (thank god for credit cards) and I do frugal things like, I hate to say, re-use Depends and bleach out and re-use catheter bags. So trying to figure out how much money we will need living a more normal lifestyle was really daunting. But I finally came up with a number that I thought would work, and then when I told the settlement consultant, he advised me to ask for more! I did take the settlement consultant's advice on this one, as "you can always amend it to less in the future if you find you really don't need it"...
All this has been keeping me busy-busy-busy. Add to that, Bob's therapy and doctor's appointments and all the usual caregiving stuff, I've been more than the usual stressed out. And there is still more to do, such as figuring out "trust fund language" and signing "releases" and etc.
It's actually been a relief to have this holiday weekend with no appointments or meetings or new decisions to make!