Trusts are important estate planning tools. They provide flexibility and security in a myriad of situations. Special Needs Trusts provide funds for people who receive public benefits to enhance their quality of life without losing necessary services such as health care services. An improperly prepared will could inadvertently cause a child with disabilities to become ineligible for necessary financial and health care benefits. This complex document should be prepared by an attorney who has experience protecting the needs of children with disabilities and their families. The attorneys at Gleason Hope Law have years of relevant experience and can help you prepare a Special Needs Trust.
Planning for the future for a child with special needs requires careful consideration beyond the typical estate plan. Once a child turns 18, he or she is considered an adult, and parents no longer have legal authority over their children. This may be problematic for parents whose children have disabilities that affect their ability to make decisions on their own. Guardianships are useful legal instruments for parents of children with disabilities because they allow the parents to maintain decision-making authority over their child.
Planning for a time when the parents can no longer care for their child with a disability requires extra consideration when that child receives public benefits. If your child receives SSI, Medicaid, or other public benefits, they risk losing these benefits if they directly inherit money or assets. Those funds will be used to pay for services until they are all gone. Once the funds are exhausted, there is a potential gap in services while the new application to reinstitute the government benefits is being processed. You can avoid this potential problem by carefully drafting a comprehensive estate plan with these concerns in mind. This means consciously avoiding direct gifts to the child with a disability and including a special needs trust to manage the funds.
A special needs trust or supplemental needs trust manages funds for someone unable to do so, while preserving the individual’s eligibility for a public benefits such as SSI, Medicaid, public housing. The funds in the trust can be used to enhance the quality of life of the beneficiary, rather than being used to pay for medical or living expenses that otherwise are covered by public benefits. A special needs trust can cover important elements such as an electric wheelchair, computers, vacations, visits to and from family, and other items or benefits that are not covered by insurance. There are different ways to structure and fund special needs trusts. An experienced attorney can help you determine which option is appropriate for your situation. Call the attorneys at Gleason Hope Law at (904) 515-0909 if you are interested in learning more about special needs trusts.