“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.
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.
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:
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 Estate & Elder Care Law, PLLC, today.
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.
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 Estate & Elder Care Law, PLLC 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.
This calculator can help you project the future expenses of an individual with special needs.