Frequently Asked Questions

How will a settlement from a wrongful death suit affect my SSI benefits?

If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, it is important to consider how a settlement in a wrongful death case will impact your right to receive these benefits.  SSI benefits are need-based, which means that they are allocated based on your current needs or resources. If your resources exceed the limits set by the Social Security office, then your SSI benefits may be terminated as a result of a wrongful death lawsuit.

In California, a person must have little or no income and few resources to qualify for SSI benefits.  Applicants must have no more than $2,000 in resources if they are single, or $3,000 for married couples living together.

It is important to note that beyond financial support, SSI benefits are often critical for recipients in California, as they provide access to low or no-cost healthcare through Medi-Cal, including prescription drugs and treatment at hospitals.  Without the assistance of these government-based benefits, recipients would not be able to obtain the medical care they desperately need.

A highly skilled and experienced California wrongful death attorney can help you obtain a wrongful death settlement and still protect your SSI benefits.  In other words, you can accept a wrongful death settlement and at the same time keep your SSI benefits by using the wrongful death settlement funds to create what is known as a Special Needs Trust.

Special Needs Trusts are created for individuals with special needs who receive government-based benefits such as SSI.  The purpose of the Special Needs Trust is to supplement the government benefits. Therefore, in California you are permitted to receive a wrongful death settlement, and at the same time continue to receive your SSI or other government-based benefits as long as you set up a Special Needs Trust with the settlement funds you obtain from the wrongful death settlement. There are different types of special needs trusts, and the laws, which govern this area are very complicated.  For these reasons, it is all the more important to work with an experienced California wrongful death attorney to make sure that the terms of the settlement allow you to continue to receive your government benefits.

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