Many of our clients come to us as a referral from a trial lawyer who represented the client in a lawsuit relating to an injury. Ideally in these situations, we will be brought in as early as possible, either as a consultant to the victim, or as part of the mediation team. Unfortunately, too often the settlement has already been reached, and the trial lawyer, while well-meaning, will not be able to maximize the value of their client’s settlement through financially planning for the proceeds. Regardless, we can still benefit a trial lawyer’s client by:
- Consulting with the trial lawyer about potential government benefits available to their injured client, to help bring the lawyer closer to a settlement by considering all available resources;
- Participating in any mediation (for one party or as a “neutral”) toward the same goals as above;
- Advising the trial lawyer on creative uses of settlement proceeds to maximize the benefit to their client;
- Advising the trial lawyer and injured person on types of planning to do in order to maintain the use of government benefits after settlement or verdict, like:
- Financial options available to balance short and long-term needs of the injured person;
- The proper role (and balance) of “structured settlements” and tax benefits associated with them;
- Types of Special Needs Trusts and ABLE accounts available to allow retention of government benefits and the enhancement of the client’s quality of life via the protected trust funds;
- Identifying potential trustees and suggesting the strengths and weaknesses of the options;
- Notifying and trouble-shooting issues that may arise with the Social Security Administration, Department of Medicaid Services and other governmental agencies; and
- Working with the trustee and client (now trust beneficiary) after the case is settled and trust is funded to address and resolves issues that might arise.
Our #1 goal is to assist the client and trial attorney in maximizing any settlement, and not have it frittered away by a rushed or uninformed settlement planning process.