When Jake and Millie came to us last summer to set up a trust for themselves, their biggest concern was not as much about their own estate planning. It was making sure there was a unique plan in place for their daughter with special needs, Grace. Like millions of parents with a child with special needs, Jake and Millie did not know if such provisions existed and worried about what would happen to Grace after they were gone. Luckily, this is where a Special Needs Trust comes into play.

In Who Gets Your Stuff When You Die: 14 Secrets For Protecting Everyone You Love And Everything You Own, I explain that it is critical our estate planning attorneys at Leigh Hilton PLLC know everything about you and your family, especially if you have a child with special needs. A Special Needs Trust can protect their inheritance and provide vital support as they age.

Here is a little more about what we mean by that.

Special Needs Trust —The ability to handle with care

A Special Needs Trust (also known as a Supplemental Needs Trust) is created while you are living and is customized to the individual with disability’s needs. It provides a child, such as Jake and Millie’s sweet Grace, with their own share of the inheritance and gives them the ability to pay for future care and services that may or may not be covered by government benefits, including:

  • Therapies
  • Special equipment
  • Education
  • Travel costs associated with medical appointments
  • Housing
  • Additional medical care
  • Recreation

By establishing a Special Needs Trust, a parent or guardian can make it possible for a beneficiary with a disability to receive assets without threatening their eligibility for government programs or benefits. For example, there may be language that says, “trust funds may not be used to pay for any medical expenses that are covered by Medicare or Medicaid.” What this does is exclude the funds in the trust from being considered when determining eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid.

This leaves their funds available for the other needs mentioned above that are not covered.

When you create a Special Needs Trust, you will need to name a trustee or trustees to manage the trust assets for the benefit of your child. Choose someone you know who cares about your child and who is willing to assume the responsibilities of caring for him or her. This person should also be familiar with government benefits and how to navigate the system to make short work of something that may bring others to tears.

Make a plan for yourself first

While Jake and Millie’s concerns were mostly for their daughter, they had the right idea in creating their own estate plan first. The plan for parents with a child who has special needs will always include a trust or will, an advanced medical directive, and the appropriate powers of attorney. One thing Jake and Millie did was also include a Letter of Intent or Letter of Instruction that spelled out all the information they wanted the court or trustee to have about Grace. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Medical history, needs, and the child’s doctors
  • Routines, interests, and preferences
  • Abilities
  • Emergency contacts
  • Financial information

These critical pieces of information will help the trustee find resources in the community, improve your child’s quality of life, make the transition easier, and help your child enjoy the maximum degree of independence.

Call Leigh Hilton PLLC today!

Flexibility in estate planning is important, especially when you have a child with special needs. Please call Leigh Hilton PLLC so that we can help ensure your family will be taken care of in the best way possible. Proper planning of an estate, whether through a Will, Trust, Special Needs Trust, or all three helps ensure your family is cared for.

Leigh Hilton PLLC wants to be your first call every time for any estate planning need. We look forward to serving you.

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