Special Needs Planning

Special Needs Planning

Families of individuals with special needs face unique challenges.  Special needs come with extra expense, so many families rely on public benefits to meet those expenses.  Planning for the future requires careful consideration of these public benefits’ requirements.  The challenge becomes how to leave a loved one, who has special needs and requires public benefits to pay for expenses, with extra money to supplement the loved ones’ needs.

This extra money is intended to increase the quality of life for the loved one, not kick him or her off benefits he/she relies on.  An attorney knowledgeable in Special Needs Planning can help.  Such an attorney will be able to set up a Special Needs Trust which will hold the inheritance (or settlement money) and allow the individual with special needs to continue to qualify for and receive their public benefits.

Special Needs Planning Attorneys in Long Beach

Whether your loved one has special needs due to blindness, Downs Syndrome, Autism, Cystic Fybrosis, Fibromyalgia or another condition, a Special Needs Trust can benefit them to ensure they will not lose their public benefits, but will have additional funds available to increase their quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions About Special Needs Planning

Question:Is a “Special Needs Trust” different from a “Supplemental Needs Trust?”

Answer:No.  These terms are interchangeable.  A Special Needs Trust is intended to “supplement” the needs of a person with special needs by providing additional money (other than public benefits received) to the individual.  The additional money is used to increase the quality of life by paying for “things” that the individual would otherwise be unable to afford.  These other “things” could include certain therapies, medical equipment, medical services or vacations or trips not covered by public benefits.  “Things” can also include the costs of transporting family members to the individual maintaining a family connection otherwise unaffordable.  There are many ways these funds can be used to “supplement” the public benefits the individual receives and lives on.

Question:Does my estate plan put my child with special needs at risk?

Answer:Quite possibly.  Many parents lovingly and thoughtfully have their estate plan prepared thinking it will do all the things it is meant to:  avoid probate; prevent fighting among children; avoid conservatorship; and get assets to their loved ones, usually their children.  Unfortunately, if you have a child with special needs and leave assets to them outright, you may disqualify that child from receiving the public benefits they rely on.  This is why a Special Needs Trust is so important in planning for children with special needs.

Question:Can a Special Needs Trust pay for anything?  Are there limitations on what it can be used for?

Answer:There are limits on what a Special Needs Trust can be used to pay for.  Payment for certain things (Food, shelter and certain expenses related to the home), is viewed as income to the individual with special needs by the agency providing the benefit and may disqualify them for the benefits.  It is important to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in Special Needs Planning as to what items can be paid for out of the Special Needs Trust.

Question:I’m worried that when I’m gone no one will know my child the way I do and my child with special needs will not be taken care of as well.  What should I do?

Answer:For starters, you should prepare a Memorandum of Intent.  A Memorandum of Intent is a document that you leave for your successor(s) describing your child in detail, including your child’s:  special need, desire and ability to work,  desired living arrangements, guardianship requirements, likes and dislikes and everything you would want someone to know about your child in order to take the best care of him or her as possible.  This document will not only give guidance to your successor(s), but it will provide a starting point for you to determine the amount you should place in the Special Needs Trust to accomplish these goals.

Question:What is a “pay-back” provision in a SNT?  Is a “pay-back” provision always necessary?

Answer:A “pay-back” provision states that the governmental agency that has paid out benefits to a person with special needs will be paid back through the assets of the Special Needs Trust when the individual dies.  These provisions are sometimes required to be placed in a Special Needs Trust.  To make sure that your Special Needs Trust does not have a “pay-back” provision when one is unnecessary, you should see an attorney familiar with Special Needs Planning.

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