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Thank You For Making our 13th Annual Special Needs Seminar our Best Yet

Gilfix and La Poll wishes to thank the hundreds of attendees, and wonderful nonprofit co-sponsors, for making our 13th annual Special Needs Seminar our best yet!

We were overwhelmed with the response, and with all of the kind comments we received from seminar attendees. We were also thrilled to see many attendees connecting with co-sponsor support organizations, including:

  • Center for Independence of San Mateo
  • Children's Health Council
  • Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL)
  • Jewish Family and Children's Services
  • Life Services Alternatives, Inc.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE)
  • Parents Helping Parents and many more!

The seminars, lead by attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark R. Gilfix, covered the importance and structure of special needs trusts, recent special needs legislative updates, including the Special Needs Trust Fairness and ABLE Acts, and an overview of how estate planning can incorporate these very important tools. Michael and Mark were thrilled with the quality of questions they received from audience members.

Gilfix and La Poll is proud to be one of the nation’s premiere special needs planning firms. We were overjoyed to connect with so many in the bay area community at our recent seminar.

We know many who signed up were unable to attend, and space and parking restraints meant we were unable to accommodate all who wanted to attend.

Because of this, we will be offering a special follow-up Special Needs Trust Seminar on June 22nd at the Bay Café (1875 Embarcadero Road) in Palo Alto. Space will be limited, and we anticipate a full house. If you hope to attend, we encourage you to register as soon as possible here.

Again, we thank you for making the Special Needs Trust seminar such a wonderful and successful event!


Gilfix and La Poll invites families to attend 13th Annual Special Needs Trust Seminar

Let’s face it, everyone is worried about the future of government benefits and how individuals with special needs will be cared for. To address this attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark Gilfix of Gilfix and La Poll Associates are offering a free special needs planning seminar on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 in Palo Alto, California. The 13th Annual Special Needs Trust Seminar will provide valuable information for those who have children or other family members with special needs. There will be two seminar sessions, each lasting two hours.

Both seminars will highlight new legislative developments and opportunities: The ABLE Act and the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act. Special needs trusts are crucial planning tools. Michael Gilfix and Mark Gilfix will explain how they work and why they are necessary to create for a child with a disability. They will also discuss housing for disabled individuals, the ABLE Act, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act and the possible impact of Trump administration initiatives. Seminar attendees will learn how special needs trusts complement public benefits like Supplemental Security Income and Medi-Cal rather than disturbing eligibility for them.

Michael Gilfix and Mark Gilfix have decades of experience in the field of special needs planning. Michael Gilfix is a member of the Academy of the Special Needs Planners and author of the book “Special Needs Trust Creation and Management Guide.”

The seminar is being held with the support of nonprofit organizations including Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area, Community Resources for Independent Living, Jewish Family and Children Services, Pacific Autism Center for Education, Parents Helping Parents and others.

Space is limited, so please reserve a spot as soon as possible. To register, call 650-493-8070 or visit

13th Annual Special Needs Trust Seminar
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
2pm to 4pm & 6pm to 8pm
Elks Lodge
4249 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, California

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Three mistakes parents of special needs children should avoid

Parents of special needs children hope to provide their offspring with financial security and the care they need. However, even with the best of intentions they risk making mistakes that could have costly, long-term consequences for their child.

One such estate planning mistake involves disinheriting the child to ensure their eligibility for key government benefits such as Medi-Cal and Supplemental Security Income. A more valuable option is for parents to set up a special needs trust. The trust can hold assets for their child without jeopardizing eligibility for federal programs. Parents can use special needs trusts to provide their child a higher quality of life that goes beyond the basic needs delivered by government benefits.

Procrastinating is another mistake parents might make. Some parents might choose to wait until their child is between the ages of 18 to 21 in order to have a better sense of their long-term prospects, mental capacity and degree of financial independence. However, failure to plan in a timely manner can mean that the special needs child is left without financial security or a guardian in the event the parents become incapacitated. As a result, it is better to engage in special needs planning sooner rather than later.

Choosing a trustee to oversee a special needs trust when parents can no longer do so is an important decision. When the responsibility falls into the wrong hands, the child may see their wishes overlooked and the special needs plan fall apart. Parents must choose someone who is trustworthy, knows the child and who will act in their best interests. They must also be able to follow trust administration rules and manage the resources available to the beneficiary.

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Important Documents for Your Children

By Myra Gerson Gilfix

For 30 years, we have been advising our clients to have their children sign some vital documents when they become 18 years of age.

The fact is that anything can happen to anybody at any time. By no means are 18 year-olds an exception to the rule. Some would say that their behavior proves the rule every day!

Parents who have been consistently in the loop for their child's medical care don't always realize that once a child becomes 18, they may suddenly be considered no more than strangers to medical professionals involved in that now-adult child's emergency care. They need to consider the possible implications of that milestone birthday.

Parents can find it particularly stressful when a college student child is, for example, in an accident. Health care providers may cite HIPAA (federal legislation protecting privacy) as a reason not to allow parents access to information about an ill or unconscious child. In fact, sometimes parents aren't even informed that the child is hurt or ill because the child is legally an adult. Parents and their young-adult children need to think about the unthinkable in advance. Three forms—HIPAA authorization, Advance Health Care Directive, and a Durable Power of Attorney—will help facilitate the involvement of a parent or other trusted adult in a medical emergency.

A Durable Power of Attorney enables someone to act on behalf of the person signing the document if he becomes incapacitated. It enables a parent or other designated agent to take care of business on the student’s behalf. If the student were to become incapacitated or if the student were studying abroad, the person named as agent in a Durable Power of Attorney would be able, for example, to sign tax returns, access bank accounts, and pay bills.

The Advance Directive gives authority to a chosen agent to communicate with doctors and other medical professionals and to make health care decisions when necessary.

A signed HIPAA Authorization will make it crystal clear that a parent (or other trusted person) can be kept in the information loop. It is like a permission slip. It permits health-care providers to disclose the child's health information to anyone specified. A stand-alone HIPAA authorization (not incorporated into another legal document) does not have to be notarized or witnessed. This document alone, signed in advance by your child, will suffice to allow you to get information from the doctors and nurses at a far-away hospital. Young people who want parents to be involved in a medical emergency, but don't want sensitive information disclosed, should not be deterred because the HIPAA authorization does not have to be all-encompassing They can specify not to disclose information about sex, drugs, mental health, or other details they want kept private.

We hope that you will take this very seriously and allow us to take these protective steps on behalf of your children.

To do so, we will have to communicate with your children. We will need to know whom they want to be named in these documents. Who knows, it may be you.

Once the forms are completed, scan and save them so that they are readily available on a smart phone or home computer.

A Party to Thank our “Peace of Mind” Program Members

Gilfix & La Poll associates recently hosted a thank-you party in Palo Alto for members of our very popular trust maintenance program that we call "Peace of Mind." Several hundred of our clients are members of the program, which makes it easy for them to stay in touch with us, to attend free seminars (and parties!), and to keep their estate plans up-to-date in a cost-effective way.

As the program has grown, we wanted to thank our members with a celebration. Shanna Gilfix, a professional musician (see one of her original songs, with over 500,000 views, here) and administrator of the Peace of Mind program, and Myra Gerson Gilfix performed live music. Wine and cheese were also served at a wonderful event. Many of our clients sang along to classic tunes, and we are hopeful that all attendees had a fantastic time. We certainly did!

The "Peace of Mind" program has been extraordinarily popular, and it is exclusively available to our trust clients. A 2 year membership includes annual 1 hour free consultations with our attorneys, exclusive free seminars on topics related to estate, long term care, and tax planning, and discounted legal services. If you would like to learn more, please visit

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Michael and Mark Gilfix Appear on NBC Bay Area and KTVU Fox Television Programs

Michael Gilfix and Mark Gilfix recently appeared together on NBC Bay Area's “Asian Pacific America with Robert Handa.” The episode focused on families in Asian communities with special needs, particularly those with autistic children.

They discussed the importance of Special Needs Trusts and their critical role in structuring an effective estate plan. Mark acknowledged the reluctance some Asian families feel toward seeking outside help, and said these trusts represent a “one-time, lifelong insurance policy” to protect their children's livelihood.

Michael also talked about his book, “Special Needs Trust Creation and Management Guide,” which answers many of the most common questions parents have about Special Needs Trusts. For more information about this book, click here. (Link to

Mark Gilfix also recently appeared on KTVU's “Bay Area People.”

Mark said that because caring for autistic children is so time-consuming and expensive, parents do not understand how to provide for their children after they are gone. He pointed out that directly inheriting a parent's assets can disqualify an autistic person from crucial needs-based programs such as Medi-Cal and Supplemental Security Income, a problem solved by Special Needs Trusts.

Mark also had the opportunity to talk about Michael's Special Needs Trust guide. Viewers of both programs are invited to request a copy of the book here.

The segment can be seen here:

Annual Gilfix & La Poll Special Needs Trust Seminar Helps Families Move Toward Peace of Mind

On April 9, 2015, Gilfix & La Poll Associates will present the 11th Annual Special Needs Trust Seminar at the Palo Alto Crowne Plaza Cabana. This yearly event is designed specifically for the family members of special needs individuals, helping them understand how they can provide long-term financial security for a loved one with special needs.

The two-hour seminar presents the most up-to-date information about special needs trusts, how special needs individuals can benefit from them, and optimal approaches to creating and maintaining this type of trust.

It will also explain the new ABLE Act, which allows money to be held in 529-like accounts for disabled individuals.

A special needs trust can provide a lifelong safety net for a special needs individual without disturbing eligibility for public benefits. Special needs attorney Michael Gilfix, who will present at the seminar, calls the special needs trust “the most important kind of trust for a special needs individual.”

Gilfix has gained national recognition for his approaches to special needs planning, and he is regularly featured in prominent publications, including the Wall Street Journal. He is the author of the Special Needs Trust Creation and Management Guide, a book used by parents of special needs individuals and others who create and manage trusts for special needs individuals.

The annual Special Needs Trust Seminar is regularly co-sponsored by Autism Society San Francisco, Institute on Aging, Fremont Bank, Morgan Autism Center, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Life Services Alternatives, the Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE), and other organizations. A number of these organizations will be in attendance and available to provide information about services at both sessions of the seminar.

The seminar will be held at the Crowne Plaza Cabana in Palo Alto, and will be presented at an afternoon and an evening session. The afternoon session begins at 2:00 p.m. and the evening session begins at 6:00 p.m. Both sessions are free.

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11th Annual Special Needs Trust Seminar presented by Gilfix & La Poll Associates

On April 9, 2015, Gilfix & La Poll Associates will present its 11th Annual Special Needs Trust Seminar, an event designed for the family members of special needs individuals.

A special needs trust can provide lifelong financial security for a special needs individual without disturbing eligibility for public benefits. As a vital supplement to public benefits, special needs trusts can pay for items and services that public benefits do not cover.

This well-attended seminar presents the most up-to-date information about special needs trusts, the ways in which special needs individuals can benefit, and how families can best approach creating and maintaining a trust for a special needs individual.

In addition, the seminar will cover the latest information about government benefits, housing, the recently-passed ABLE Act, and a number of other topics important to families of special needs individuals.

The seminar will be held at the Crowne Plaza Cabana in Palo Alto. Specific information and online registration can be found on the Gilfix & La Poll Events page.

The seminar is regularly co-sponsored by notable organizations including Autism Society San Francisco, Institute on Aging, Fremont Bank, Morgan Autism Center, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Life Services Alternatives, and the Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE). A number of these organizations will be in attendance and available to provide information about services at both sessions of the seminar.

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Computer-based messaging may help individuals with autism develop better relationships

The MIT publication Technology Review recently called attention to a new study that takes a novel approach to computer use for people with autism.

Traditionally, people with autism are thought to be loners who do not desire social connection. Many of the computer-based interventions for people with autism have sought to enhance communication skills that autistic individuals can use, in the words of one researcher, “in real life.”

But who is to say that computers are not part of real life? At least, that is the approach taken by the Dutch researchers who sought to study the computer-based communications of people with autism.

The results, according to the researchers, point to an idea that is gaining momentum -- that autistic individuals are interested in developing social relationships, and that the digital world may be one place where they are able to do that effectively and fulfillingly.

The researchers compared the computer-based social lives of a group of autistic adults with a group of adults who were otherwise similar but who did not have autism. Among other findings, the researchers reported that individuals in the autistic group were more likely to have a broader and more active group of friends in their digital world.

Some of the advantages that helped autistic individuals in the study to conduct more and better social interactions over the computer were the ability to respond in a more self-determined timeframe and the lack of additional information to process, such as body language.

The writers at the Technology Review asserted that the Dutch study may lack broad scientific validity because of the size and type of population samples used. Nevertheless, the authors applauded the direction of the research and call for additional studies based on the idea that people with autism may desire higher levels of social interaction and a greater variety of relationships than are currently served.

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Setting up a special needs trust: three reasons to start sooner

When preparing for the future of a child or family member with a disability, many parents and guardians plan to set up a special needs trust. 

This unique kind of trust can provide for many of the supplemental needs of a disabled person without jeopardizing that person’s eligibility for vital government benefits, including Medi-Cal and Supplemental Security Income. However, few know that there are concrete benefits to setting up such a trust sooner rather than later.

Start growing now.
When parents or grandparents set up and put money into a special needs trust during their own lifetimes, it can start to grow immediately. From the time the trust is established, anyone can contribute to it – uncles, godparents, friends – creating an especially beneficial way for loved ones to contribute to your child or family member’s future.

Ensure that the trust has the most beneficial structure.
Some special needs trusts, especially those created for assets already belonging to the beneficiary, mandate that funds remaining in the trust after the death of the beneficiary must first go to pay back Medi-Cal for all expenses covered during the beneficiary’s lifetime. When a trust is set up within the parents’ lifetime, by contrast, it can be established before any assets pass on to the beneficiary. A correctly drafted third-party special needs trust need not have a payback provision.

Give yourself time to change the trustee(s) or remainder beneficiaries.
The administration of a special needs trust can be complicated. Many parents or guardians entrust this responsibility to a professional trustee, who can ensure proper disbursement that does not endanger benefits eligibility. Other parents select a family member. Regardless, a properly constructed third-party special needs trust can give parents the flexibility to change trustees over time as needs change.

For more than 30 years, Gilfix & La Poll Associates LLP has innovated creative legal solutions to help you manage and plan the future of your estate. To contact an estate planning lawyer, visit or call (800) 244-9424.

For a copy of Michael Gilfix’s guide, Special Needs Trust Creation and Management, visit the same website or call the number above.