If you have a loved one who is disabled or who has special needs and receives governmental benefits, diligent estate planning will be needed to make sure they are taken care of after your death. A special needs trust (also known as a supplemental needs trust) is needed to ensure your special needs family member continues to receive Supplemental Security Income, subsidized housing, and/or Medicaid benefits. While government benefits provide the basics for a special needs person, a special needs trust can help maintain quality of life and provide for needs other than food, shelter and clothing.
Without a special needs trust, any inheritance could disqualify the disabled person from these important resources. The special needs trust is also useful in that creditors cannot seize the assets in the trust. A special needs trust must be irrevocable, designate the disabled person as the sole beneficiary, name successor beneficiaries who will receive the assets upon the disabled person’s death, and must be in place before the intended beneficiary’s 65th birthday.
The assets in a special needs trust is not considered a countable asset in qualifying for government benefits. While a special needs trust is most often formed as a separate document prior to the settlor’s death, it can be included in a will.
A special needs trust continues until the death of the beneficiary or until the assets of the trust are used up. When establishing a special needs trust, the maker of the trust selects the trustee. This person will take care of a variety of personal expenses for the special needs loved one, including, but not limited to, education, personal care attendants, vacations, computers and out of pocket healthcare. However, a special needs trust is restricted from providing for food or housing. As special circumstances of the client arise, an experienced trust attorney can design a trust to meet the needs of the client.