Estate planning for parents of a child with special needs

By November 29, 2010Uncategorized

As people enter their retirement years, they oftentimes begin to consider things such as what they will leave to their posterity.  They may work with an attorney to establish a will or create a trust.  They typically decide to whom their assets will go, and whether to make gifts to charitable organizations and the like.  This planning process generally takes quite a bit of thought and consideration.  And, parents of a child with special needs may have to make even more complex plans than others.

Parents who leave an inheritance to a child with special needs could inadvertently jeopardize the very public benefits upon which that child depends for support.  This is because public benefit programs are needs based, and those with too many resources are ineligible to receive them.  Even an individual who has already been approved for public benefits can lose his eligibility if he receives an inheritance that causes him to exceed the resource limit.

As parents know, public benefits are critical to supporting a child with special needs, but these benefits are sometimes insufficient to provide everything the child needs to maintain an adequate quality of life.  Fortunately, parents who plan ahead can create a special needs trust that will supplement the disabled child’s public benefits without disqualifying him from the program to which he belongs.  A Medicaid special needs trust is designed to help Medicaid enrollees remain eligible for Medicaid benefits, and an SSI special needs trust does the same for SSI enrollees.

Parents of a disabled child should not make an estate plan without considering a special needs trust.  This type of planning is of paramount importance to the child, for neglecting to adequately prepare could cause him to lose his benefits.  While an estate planning attorney should be familiar with most planning tools, not every attorney thoroughly understands special needs trusts.  As such, parents of a child with special needs should speak directly with a special needs trust attorney about how they can preserve their child’s benefits.