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A Short Introduction to Special Needs Planning

If you have a child with disabilities, creating an estate plan that equips them for a future without you can be extremely challenging.

1. How do you leave assets for your child without causing them to not qualify for important public benefits?
2. Who do you trust to manage the funds?
3. How do you make sure that your other children are not solely responsible for caring for their disabled sibling? How do you create a plan that balances the responsibility?
4. How should you distribute your estate among your disabled child and other children?
5. How do you make sure there’s enough money to meet your disabled child’s needs?

The right estate plan ensures that your child with special needs will be well taken care of when you are no longer able to.

Why You Need A Special Needs Trust

Estate planning for a family with special needs children comes with a complex set of financial, social, and medical issues that some lawyers are ill-equipped to handle.

A child with special needs often does not have the capacity to manage their care or finances on their own, and the cost of care is often very expensive, which can send everything you leave them quickly out the door.

Leaving assets directly to your children affects their ability to get public benefits or government assistance. You want your child to be able to qualify for these benefits so they can get the help they need without having to put everything you leave them into their care.

You don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

Government benefits are much better served as a supplemental part of your child’s care.

You don’t want to rely 100% on government assistance, just like you don’t want your children to burn through everything you left them because they couldn’t qualify for any benefits.

The key is to use what government benefits you can, while still having the assets you left behind available to make sure your child is safe, protected and cared for.

This is exactly what a Special Needs Trust is designed to do.

On the one hand, you can leave your child with the assets they need to be well taken care of throughout their lifetime, and at the same time, you are able to make sure they qualify for government assistance in order to preserve their portion of your estate.

What you are doing is creating a plan that leaves enough money to pay for the massive amount of care and support a special needs loved one typically needs throughout their lifetime, while not disqualifying them from government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Social Security Income.

Special Needs Planning and Trusts

A trust is a legal tool that can own property (like real estate or other assets), where one person (the trustee) manages the property for the benefit of someone else — the beneficiary.

Your child would be the beneficiary and the trustee would be a person you name. This is how all trusts work.

The primary purpose of a special needs trust is to leave assets to your child with disabilities without preventing them from qualifying for government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Social Security Income.

How you set up and structure your Special Needs Trust will have a direct impact on your child’s ability to get public assistance and benefits that will help pay for their care.

Making a mistake in how you do this can directly affect your child’s care after you are gone. The only way to ensure you do this correctly is to speak with an experienced special needs attorney.

For a free consultation and strategy call, contact us today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Leaving a child with special needs assets can disqualify them from receiving government benefits like Medicaid and Social Security. These benefits are needed to help supplement care. Without them, most of the money you leave your child will go directly to care, with no offset by government benefits. While a special-needs trust safeguards your child’s eligibility for government services and programs, a will does not.

Because of the government rules and the complexity of setting up this specific type of trust, it is highly advised that you speak to a special needs attorney who has experience in these types of trusts.

It is a common belief that Special Needs Truss can only be used for medical needs or costs directly related to a disability. This is not true. Nearly all Special Needs Trusts define special needs as anything that is not provided through government or public assistance.