Marcella Downing practices in the areas of estate planning and administration, special needs planning and administration, veterans’ advocacy, business succession planning, probate, and conservatorships. In addition to assisting clients in the traditional areas of estate planning and estate administration, Ms. Downing is also experienced in assisting her clients in finding and managing resources and relationships which support their long-term needs through mediation, life care planning, and planning for asset preservation.
Ms. Downing represents trustees of traditional and special needs trusts, veterans seeking compensation for service-related injuries and Aid and Attendance, individuals with chronic illnesses or disabilities, and clients who seek to plan for the aging process.
Ms. Downing is a member of Law Review and was Editor-in-Chief of the San Joaquin College of Law Agricultural Law Review (2004-2005). She served on the Young Lawyers Advisory Committee for the Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), the State Bar of California Speakers Bureau (2009-9011), served on the Board for the National Life Care Planning Law Firms Association (2011-2013 and CastleKeep (2011). She is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and the Trust and Estates Section of the California State Bar.
Ms. Downing is active in her community. She was the chair of the San Joaquin College of Law Senior Law Day (2007-2011), and regularly speaks to various organizations which serve the aging, our veterans, those with special needs, and their caregivers.
Ms. Downing is a contributing author to the book, Estate Planning Strategies, Collective Wisdom Proven Techniques, in which she wrote on Ethics in Estate Planning and is the published author of a comment in the San Joaquin College of Law, Agricultural Law Review entitled, The Horns of a Dilemma: The Application of The Doctrine of Patent Exhaustion and Licensing of Patented Seed.
Having cared for many members of her own family, Ms. Downing brings to her work a passion for building the caregiving team and resources. She is a graduate of The University of California, Santa Cruz, with a major in Philosophy and has a background in accounting which she acquired while working her way through school and later supporting her husband and law partner through his schooling.
If you currently provide care for a child or loved one with special needs (such as mental or physical disabilities), you must have contemplated with concern about what may happen to them when you are no longer able to provide and care for them.
While you can certainly provide that they receive money and assets, such a bequest may prevent them from qualifying for essential benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs. However, public monetary benefits provide only for the bare necessities such as food, housing and clothing. As you can imagine, these limited benefits will not provide those loved ones with the resources that would allow them to enjoy a richer quality of life. But if parents leave any assets to their child who is receiving public benefits, they run the risk of disqualifying the child from receiving them. Fortunately, the government has established rules allowing assets to be held in trust, called a “Special Needs” or “Supplemental Needs” Trust for a recipient of SSI and Medicaid, as long as certain requirements are met.
Our law firm can help you set up a Special Needs Trust so that government benefit eligibility is preserved while at the same time providing assets that will meet the supplemental needs of the person with a disability (those that go beyond food, shelter, and clothing and the medical and long term supports and services of Medicaid). The Special Needs Trust can fund those additional needs. In fact, the Special Needs Trust must be designed specifically to supplement, not replace public benefits. Parents should be aware that funds from the trust cannot be distributed directly to the disabled beneficiary. Instead, it must be disbursed to third parties who provide goods and services for use and enjoyment by the disabled beneficiary.
Tell us about your special needs issue and we will put you in touch with Marcella Downing Esq.