Special Needs Planning


If you are the parent or caretaker of a child or loved one with special needs (such as mental or physical disabilities), you must have faced a particularly challenging and worrying question when planning for their future: what will happen to them once you become unable to provide for their care?

Unfortunately, money and assets left for them in a typical will or trust may not be ideal. This is because receiving a sudden inheritance may count against the financial conditions that allow them to qualify for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs. In effect, they will have too much money to receive their benefits. Thankfully, for those receiving SSI and Medicaid, the government does allow assets to be held in a specialized trust, called a “Special Needs” or “Supplemental Needs” Trust, so long as particular qualifications are met.  Allocating assets to this type of trust will help ensure that your loved one continues to receive his or her public monetary benefits to provide for life’s basic necessities (food, housing, clothing, health care). The assets assigned to the Special Needs Trust can then be used to provide your loved one with the resources that would allow them to enjoy a richer quality of life.

Our firm’s attorneys can help you organize a Special Needs Trust to provide the funds to meet the supplemental needs of your loved one, all while maintaining his or her eligibility for government benefits.  It is important to make clear that the Special Needs Trust can only supplement those basic public benefits; it cannot replace them. Furthermore, the trust does not provide the disabled beneficiary with its funds. Rather, it pays third parties who provide the goods and services to be used and enjoyed by your loved one.

The Special Needs Trust can be used for a variety of life-enriching purchases, such as:

  • Annual check-ups at an independent medical facility
  • Attendance of religious services
  • Supplemental education and tutoring
  • Out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses
  • Transportation (including purchase of a vehicle)
  • Maintenance of vehicles
  • Purchase of materials for a hobby or recreation activity
  • Funds for trips or vacations
  • Funds for entertainment such as movies, concerts, or sporting events.
  • Purchase of goods and services that add enjoyment and quality to life, including computers, videos, furniture, or electronics.
  • Athletic training or competitions
  • Special dietary needs
  • A personal care attendant or escort

If you are concerned about providing for your disabled beneficiaries after your passing, a Special Needs Trust will be a vital component of your estate planning.  Special Needs Trusts are independent trusts that can be funded during your life with an investment or at your death with a life insurance policy, or can be included as a sub-trust within your existing living trust.