Special Needs Estate Planning focuses on providing for the special needs of our loved ones with disabilities when we are no longer there to organize and advocate on their behalf. Parents of children with special needs must make careful estate planning choices to coordinate all of the legal, financial, and special care needs of their children – both now and in the future.
An Overview of Special Needs Estate Planning
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: Also called First Party Special Needs Trusts. Can be created by the special needs person themselves, or by a parent, grandparent or legal guardian using the disabled individual’s own assets to fund the Trust (e.g., when someone receives a settlement from a personal injury lawsuit and will require lifelong care). If assets remain in the Trust after the individual’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.
The first and most important aspect of a Special Needs Trust is to create a plan and identify those individuals that you would want to take care of your loved one when you no longer can. You can provide specific instructions regarding on-going care, housing needs, medical needs, and social needs.
The second important purpose of a Special Needs Trust is to preserve the public benefits that your loved one receives, including SSI, Medi-Cal and other publicly funded programs. Generally speaking, when someone that receives needs-based aid from the government receives an inheritance, it often causes them to become ineligible for those services. With proper planning, you can provide for your loved one without jeopardizing their benefits.
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. Acorn Law 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.
- 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.