Special Needs Planning

Planning for a child with intellectual and/or developmental disaiblities ("I/DD") presents many important issues that must be considered and resolved at the earliest possible time.  What will the future hold for your daughter when you will no longer be there as her parent, friend and biggest supporter?  Who will be there to make sure that your son continues receiving the care and system of support you have spent years developing? Who will know your child's likes, dislikes, talents, special problems, and strengths? Where will the money come from to pay for a lifetime of care? A thoughtfully drafted Special Needs Trust  holds the answers to these important questions, and more. 

Inheritances and Government Assistance
Many parents don’t realize that an inheritance may cause problems for their child.  Under current law, owning assets in excess of $2,000 may disqualify your son or daughter from receiving most state and federal needs-based assistance.   When you die and leave an inheritance outright or in a general needs trust  to your child,  those inherited funds will be counted in determining his or her  financial eligibility for federal and state assistance programs.    As a result, government benefits for housing, medical care, education, therapy and caregivers may be cut off completely.  Your child will then be obligated to spend his or her entire inheritance for all living and medical expenses, and within a very short time, the entire inheritance will be spent. Now broke, your son or daughter will once again be eligible for government assistance.  By this time, there is nothing left for his or her supplemental needs: education, special outings, vacations, trips to see family members, a new t.v. or c.d. player.  While these items may seem essential to us, the government will not pay for these expenditures.  So, without your to provide financial support, and with the inheritance money gone, the your child goes without.

The Special Needs Trust Solution
The only way to ensure that an inheritance remains available for a child with I/DD, without  terminating government assistance, is through a legal document referred to as a Special Needs Trust (SNT).  In many respects, the SNT is similar to other types of trusts that parents establish for their children, but with important distinguishing features. First and foremost, the Special Needs Trust  will provide that inherited money will not ever belong directly to the child, at any age. The SNT requires that the inheritance cannot be used for any expenditure that would disqualify the child from receiving government assistance.  The only expenditures that the SNT Trustee is authorized to make are those which are for the child's supplemental needs.  Supplemental needs can include direct payments for medical and dental expenses, eye glasses, independent medical checkups, transportation and vehicle purchase, education, rehabilitation, and essential dietary needs.  The Trustee can also give the child money for entertainment (movies, amusement parks), electronic equipment, trips and vacations, birthday gifts for family members, companion services, home health aid, and a wide range of items and services to enhance self-esteem.  

By limiting the use of Trust funds for these supplemental needs, the SNT can legally ensure that government assistance will continue to be provided for ongoing medical care and housing for the developmentally  disabled child who inherits money.  The Special Needs Trust solution is an essential planning tool that will enhance your child's quality of life and ensure continuity of care for his or her lifetime. 

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