Special Needs Planning in Tennessee

Serving Clients and their Families throughout Franklin
and Nashville, Tennessee & the Surrounding Areas


“Special Needs” is the broad category of requirements and care for individuals suffering from a wide range of physical disabilities, medical conditions, intellectual difficulties, or emotional issues, including physical conditions, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems.

What help will the government give us to help financially with our special needs child?

The federal and state governments have numerous benefits that are available to individuals with special needs. These programs vary from state to state, but many also have some type of Medicaid waiver that will cover residential, daycare, career, and other basic services.

Some of these major programs include: (i) Medicaid, which gives basic medical care; (ii) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provide allowances for food and shelter to people with disabilities; and (iii) Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which helps those with a disability, but requires that the individual not have been able to work for at least a year because of the disability.

There's a lot to keep straight. How do we stay organized?

If you have a child or other loved one with special needs, it's critical that you engage in proactive planning to ensure that the child or loved one can continue to receive all of the right services that he or she may need without being disqualified due to a windfall inheritance. One such mechanism for this is a Special Needs Trust which allows one to leave some or all of one’s assets for the benefit of the special needs child without disqualifying him or her from receiving other government-related benefits. Similarly, depending on age, particular circumstances and and other factors, one can establish a Special Needs Trust for one’s own benefit. Most typically, this follows some catastrophic incident where insurance or other settlement proceeds are used to fund the Special Needs Trust.

Establishing a Special Needs Trust is just the beginning. It is important that the trustee or parent keep impeccable records related to the person’s status and care, trust expenditures and other expenditures on behalf of the special needs individual.

Make sure that you regularly update the information in the file when there are changes in your family's situation, changes in the needs or desires of your child, and to detail any other issues that may help future caregivers in caring for your child.

You should include these types of documents and maintain your file with any changes:

  • Important legal documents, such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, medical records, prescriptions, and health insurance cards;
  • A Letter of Intent – a non-binding document that gives vital information about the child with special needs to his or her future caregivers. This can be details like your child’s sleeping preferences, eating habits and favorite foods, activities and hobbies, and other aspects of his or her routine;
  • Directions as to your wishes for final arrangements, e.g., burial services, final resting place, or other details you want carried out;
  • Avoid headaches and heartaches by including an advance health care and financial directives such as powers of attorney, living wills, and health care proxies;
  • Copies of special needs, living, or insurance trusts that may be in effect. (The signed copies or originals may be required to complete property transfers, so also include details about the location of the originals);
  • A list of major assets and information about where they are located, such as insurance policies, investments, bank accounts with policy and account numbers and contact info for brokers, insurance agents, and investment advisors;
  • If you have had them created, include the guardianship documents;
  • The contact information for government agencies or case workers with whom you have worked;
  • A list of government benefits that your child or other special needs person may receive, as well as copies of completed applications; and

Any other documentation that would assist future caregivers, like tax returns for your child, information about housing, educational programs, and family photographs and small mementos.

That's a lot to cover. Why not let someone who does this regularly assist you? A special needs attorney has the background to make your lives a little easier. Make an appointment to visit with an attorney at John Burns Law, PLC, today.

An Overview of Special Needs Estate Planning


There are several types of trusts to assist with these special planning challenges. The most common types are Support Trusts and Special Needs Trusts.

  • Support Trusts:  Support Trusts require the Trustee to make distributions for the child’s support in areas like food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and educational services. Beneficiaries of Support Trusts are not eligible to receive financial assistance through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. If your child will require SSI or Medicaid, you should avoid a Support Trust.

  • Special Needs Trusts:  For many parents, a Special Needs Trust is the most effective way to help their child with a disability. A Special Needs Trust manages resources while also maintaining the child’s eligibility for public assistance benefits.

There are two types of Special Needs Trusts:

  • Third-Party Special Needs Trust:  Created using the assets of the parent(s) as part of an estate plan; distributed by a Will or Living Trust.

  • Self-Settled Special Needs Trust: Generally created by a parent, grandparent or legal guardian using the child’s assets to fund the Trust (e.g., when the child receives a settlement from a personal injury lawsuit and will require lifelong care). If assets remain in the Trust after the child’s death, a payback to the state is required, but only to the extent the child receives public assistance benefits.

Special Needs Trusts are a critical component of your estate planning if you have loved ones with disabilities for whom you wish to provide after your passing. Generally, Special Needs Trusts are either stand-alone trusts funded with separate assets (like life insurance) or they can be sub-trusts in existing living trusts. 

Special Needs Estate Planning Online Resource Center


Planning for your loved one with special needs requires extensive research to become a well-educated advocate. You will want to keep up-to-date on the latest medical, educational, financial, and legal changes. John Burns Law, PLC provides assistance to you and your family in addressing your unique concerns. We hope this Special Needs Resource Center provides you with a quick reference to find the additional resources you may need.

  • Social Security Resources:
    Benefits for Children with Special Needs
    Social Security Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool
  • Handbook for Trustees: A special needs trust can be a very powerful aid in managing care for a family member with a disability. It can provide supplemental items like therapy, respite care, dental work, companions, entertainment, education — all without interfering with the beneficiary’s SSI, Medicaid or other government programs. The special needs trust can be a flexible tool. It can also be very difficult and confusing to administer. Download a free copy of the Handbook for Trustees
  • Exceptional Parent online: Online resource for the special needs community, including families, caregivers, physicians, allied health care professionals, and teachers.
  • The Arc: The Arc is a national organization of and for people with mental disabilities and related developmental disabilities and their families. The Arc works to promote and improve support and services for people with mental disabilities and their families and also fosters research into and education about the prevention of these disabilities in infants and young children.
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys: The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys is a non-profit association that assists lawyers, bar organizations and others who work with older clients and their families. The Academy provides information, education, networking and assistance to those who deal with the many specialized issues involved with legal services to the elderly and people with special needs.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is dedicated to improving the lives of persons living with serious mental illness and their families. There are NAMI organizations in every state and in over 1,100 local communities across the country.
  • Center for Parent Information and Resources: The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) serves as a central resource of information and products to the community of Parent Training Information (PTI) Centers and the Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs), so that they can focus their efforts on serving families of children with disabilities. Use this interactive map to find the PTI or CPRC that serves your State or territory.
  • Annual Disability Statistics Compendium: This publication, the first Compendium, focuses on state-level statistics published by Federal agencies.

Calculating Your Loved One’s Future Financial Needs


This calculator can help you project the future expenses of an individual with special needs.

  • Special Needs Planning

    An Overview of Special Needs Estate Planning


    There are several types of trusts to assist with these special planning challenges. The most common types are Support Trusts and Special Needs Trusts.

    • Support Trusts:  Support Trusts require the Trustee to make distributions for the child’s support in areas like food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and educational services. Beneficiaries of Support Trusts are not eligible to receive financial assistance through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. If your child will require SSI or Medicaid, you should avoid a Support Trust.

    • Special Needs Trusts:  For many parents, a Special Needs Trust is the most effective way to help their child with a disability. A Special Needs Trust manages resources while also maintaining the child’s eligibility for public assistance benefits.

    There are two types of Special Needs Trusts:

    • Third-Party Special Needs Trust:  Created using the assets of the parent(s) as part of an estate plan; distributed by a Will or Living Trust.

    • Self-Settled Special Needs Trust: Generally created by a parent, grandparent or legal guardian using the child’s assets to fund the Trust (e.g., when the child receives a settlement from a personal injury lawsuit and will require lifelong care). If assets remain in the Trust after the child’s death, a payback to the state is required, but only to the extent the child receives public assistance benefits.

    Special Needs Trusts are a critical component of your estate planning if you have loved ones with disabilities for whom you wish to provide after your passing. Generally, Special Needs Trusts are either stand-alone trusts funded with separate assets (like life insurance) or they can be sub-trusts in existing living trusts.

  • Resources

    Special Needs Estate Planning Online Resource Center


    Planning for your loved one with special needs requires extensive research to become a well-educated advocate. You will want to keep up-to-date on the latest medical, educational, financial, and legal changes. John Burns Law, PLC provides assistance to you and your family in addressing your unique concerns. We hope this Special Needs Resource Center provides you with a quick reference to find the additional resources you may need.

    • Social Security Resources:
      Benefits for Children with Special Needs
      Social Security Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool
    • Handbook for Trustees: A special needs trust can be a very powerful aid in managing care for a family member with a disability. It can provide supplemental items like therapy, respite care, dental work, companions, entertainment, education — all without interfering with the beneficiary’s SSI, Medicaid or other government programs. The special needs trust can be a flexible tool. It can also be very difficult and confusing to administer. Download a free copy of the Handbook for Trustees
    • Exceptional Parent online: Online resource for the special needs community, including families, caregivers, physicians, allied health care professionals, and teachers.
    • The Arc: The Arc is a national organization of and for people with mental disabilities and related developmental disabilities and their families. The Arc works to promote and improve support and services for people with mental disabilities and their families and also fosters research into and education about the prevention of these disabilities in infants and young children.
    • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys: The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys is a non-profit association that assists lawyers, bar organizations and others who work with older clients and their families. The Academy provides information, education, networking and assistance to those who deal with the many specialized issues involved with legal services to the elderly and people with special needs.
    • National Alliance on Mental Illness: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is dedicated to improving the lives of persons living with serious mental illness and their families. There are NAMI organizations in every state and in over 1,100 local communities across the country.
    • National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities: The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) serves as a central source of information on disabilities in children and youth. The NICHCY Web site has a State Organization - Search by State tool to assist you in finding contact information for disability-related organizations in every state.
    • Annual Disability Statistics Compendium: This publication, the first Compendium, focuses on state-level statistics published by Federal agencies.
  • Calculators

    Calculating Your Loved One’s Future Financial Needs


    These calculators can help you project the future expenses of an individual with special needs.

Have Questions?

Have Questions?

We’d Love to Talk with You

John Burns Law, PLC

John Burns Law, PLC

219 3rd Ave N #2000
Franklin, TN 37064

jburns@johnburnslawfirm.com
(615) 630-0122