Changing Clients’ Lives with Special Needs Trusts

Kevin UrbatschImagine being forced to choose between life-saving medical benefits and accepting the heartfelt gift bequeathed by a loved one who has passed away. With his specialized knowledge of special needs trusts, Panel attorney Kevin Urbatsch prevents individuals with disabilities from having to choose.

“People with disabilities must contend with unintentional discrimination, presumptions that they cannot do certain things, and the mistaken belief that they are a drag on society,” Kevin explains. “I’ve always felt that individuals with disabilities need a strong voice to support and advocate for them.”

Kevin has worked on behalf of people living with disabilities throughout his career and has been a member of the ALRP Panel since February 2008. When he began practicing law as a litigation attorney, Kevin readily accepted many discrimination cases and Americans with Disabilities Act public access cases. Once he transitioned from litigation to estate planning, his dedication to helping people with disabilities continued. Now at Myers Urbatsch P.C., a full-service estate planning law corporation, Kevin specializes in the planning needs of individuals with disabilities and their families.

Recently, a client turned to ALRP when his mother passed away. He sought advice on how being named the primary beneficiary of her trust would affect his Medi-Cal and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Kevin quickly agreed to consult with the client. With Kevin’s help, the client was able to move forward and feel good about his decision. “I feel better educated, more informed, supported, and less isolated. I feel more secure in dealing with the legal issues I have. You’ve been very helpful—thank you!”

Special needs trusts are essential—they allow money to be set aside for a disabled beneficiary while still allowing them to remain eligible for SSI and Medi-Cal. Many people with disabilities are unaware of this option and instead refuse their inheritance in fear that they will lose their public benefits. “My biggest challenge,” Kevin says, “is making sure people know what they’re entitled to.”

In addition to supporting HIV-positive clients, Kevin assists people living with multiple sclerosis, Down syndrome, and quadriplegia. Although gifts from family are appreciated, they are rarely sufficient to pay a lifetime’s worth of expensive medical care. By receiving inherited assets, a person becomes ineligible for public assistance, including public health insurance, forcing them to pay for their long-term medical expenses out-of-pocket. Even one small surgical operation can deplete an entire inherited gift.

For Kevin’s clients, most of whom are homebound and unable to work full-time, public benefits are crucial for receiving healthcare. Unfortunately, as California continues to cut Medi-Cal benefits and SSI, many people rely on the limited assistance they inherit from friends and family to cover additional expenses. Kevin’s specialized legal knowledge and dedication allow his clients to maintain the vital services they depend on while honoring the wishes of their loved ones.

A native of Northern Iowa, Kevin received his law degree from St. Louis University in 1993. He moved to California shortly after he became licensed to practice. In addition to consulting with clients and mentoring ALRP attorneys, Kevin decided to share his knowledge in a book after receiving so many questions about special needs trusts. Kevin authored Special Needs Trusts: Protect Your Child’s Financial Future, published by Nolo Press in April 2011. From 2006 to 2009, Kevin was an Attorney-Editor for the Continuing Education of the Bar in its estate planning group.

In his free time, Kevin enjoys supporting the San Francisco Giants and participating in the Lawyer’s League Softball Team. An avid bicyclist, Kevin first learned of ALRP during one of his numerous AIDS/LifeCycle rides. He hopes to participate in another ride soon.

ALRP is truly grateful for Kevin’s dedication to serving underrepresented communities as a lawyer, educator, and advocate.