Special Needs Trusts
Few events in life are as difficult and overwhelming as learning your child has special needs. We understand that planning for your child's future is stressful and full of uncertainty because we, too, are parents of a child with special needs. We help families of children and adults protect eligibility for government benefits such as SSI, SSDI, Medicaid and Medicare. We guide families in careful long term planning to financially and legally provide for their loved one. Planning enables you to protect your child's quality of life and finances long after you are gone.
If you have a child with special needs, you may have been given the common advice not to have assets in your child’s name. When a child turns 18, he or she is then a legal “adult” and can then become eligible for various government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid (and in some cases, Medicare). However, both of these benefits require that the child own less than $2,000, not just upon turning 18, but for a period of several years prior to reaching age 18, and indefinitely thereafter. This is when the Special Needs Trust is a very useful planning strategy.
Parents, grandparents, and family friends struggle to understand how they can then gift presently or leave assets to the child in the future without causing disqualification for government benefits. Solution: establish a Special Needs Trust. Parents can then also designate a Trustee who can manage the assets for the child, as well as control the distributions and child’s ability to access the funds. Trust assets can then be used to “supplement” the government benefits the child is already receiving to maximize the child’s quality of life.
It is critical to establish a Special Needs Trust for your child as soon as possible, even if he or she is too young to qualify for governmental benefits, and even if you are not sure that your child’s challenges will be lifelong. A Special Needs Trust can accept gifts and inheritances from family and friends without interfering with your child’s governmental benefits qualification. Gifts or inheritances given directly to the child, outside the Special Needs Trust arrangement, can cause the child to be disqualified for other benefits or require the child to reimburse the state for services received. You may designate alternative beneficiaries in a Special Needs Trust (such as your other children or family members) to avoid having to reimburse the government for services provided to your child. Assets of Special Needs Trusts are also protected in a parents’ divorce, serve as a safe vehicle for divorced spouse’s contributions, and are safeguarded from liability.