Special Needs Planning

Planning for Family Members with Special (Supplemental) Needs

Providing for a family member with special needs, such as a mental or physical disability, can be a very rewarding role. Often, those family members with special needs rely on their caregivers to help them navigate life. Have you thought about who they might rely on, or what might happen to them when you, or their other care givers can no longer provide the same level of care for them?

If you have a loved one that receives Supplemental Security Income, a Special Needs Trust is an important piece of your estate plan

If your family members with special needs are your children, you may have written in your Will that they will receive your money and other assets, and you may have planned for them to inherit your home, especially if that home is outfitted for any special assistance they may need. But it is important to know that giving them these assets through your Will may prevent them from qualifying for Supplemental Security Income benefits, or benefits from other government funded programs such as Medicaid or MediCare.

You are probably aware that these government-funded benefits are designed only to provide for basic living needs such as food, housing, or clothing. These basic necessities will likely not provide your loved one with the comforts and lifestyle that you were able to provide for them as part of your caregiving. So if leaving your loved one assets through your Will might disqualify them from receiving necessary benefits, how can you afford your loved one the comforts that you would like them to have? How can you make sure they have spending money to go to the movies? Or participate in activities?

Congress allows assets to be held in a Special Needs Trust (also called a Supplemental Needs Trust, or SNT) as long as certain legal requirements are met. This type of trust allows you to set aside assets (money or property, such as a house) for your loved one without risking the loss of government benefit eligibility.

The funds from the Special Needs Trust can be used for a variety of expenses, such as:

  • Specialized medical equipment not covered by Medicaid or insurance
  • Medical and dental care not paid for by other sources
  • Personal attendants
  • Supplemental education assistance
  • Transportation (including purchase of a vehicle or van adaptations)
  • Hobbies or recreational activities
  • Vacations or trips
  • Entertainment such as movies or shows
  • Goods and services that improve your loved one’s quality of life

If you have a loved one that receives Supplemental Security Income, a Special Needs Trust is an important piece of your estate plan. If you would like more information about Special Needs planning or would like to set up a consultation, please contact our office directly by clicking here.