What is Special Needs Planning?
If you have a child or dependent who has special needs, Special Needs Planning addresses the possibility that if you leave an inheritance to your loved one, he or she could lose government benefits that are essential to their wellbeing. A Special Needs Trust provides for supplemental care and life-enhancing services and equipment beyond that which the government provides. Because the assets named in a Special Needs Trust are not considered countable assets, the Trust does not hinder the disabled person’s eligibility for “needs-based” benefits such as Medicaid.
Special Needs Planning also involves making provisions for your loved one’s health, housing, and financial security when you are no longer able to care for them.
At Life Point Law, we understand the sensitive nature of Special Needs Planning. In addition to drafting Special Needs Trusts, our attorney will help you develop a well-thought-out plan for loved ones who will require lifetime care.
FAQs about Special Needs Trusts
A SNT is a generic term commonly used to describe trust funds created to supplement the government benefits received by the beneficiary. By maintaining a beneficiary’s eligibility for government benefits, the pool of assets available for the care of the beneficiary becomes significantly broader and deeper and lasts for a longer period of time. Generally, if a client is asking whether an existing trust qualifies as a special needs trust, they are really asking if the trust will work to protect the beneficiary’s eligibility for need-based public benefits. The answer is often dependent on state law.
These are the most common situations:
- To hold assets belonging to a beneficiary with a disability who needs means-tested benefits, most often Medicaid;
- To hold assets, such as an inheritance or personal injury settlement, coming into the hands of an individual with a disability already receiving means-tested benefits;
- As an estate planning tool to hold the disabled beneficiary’s share of the parents or others estates;
- To receive and hold child support, alimony or a property settlement in a divorce where a child or one spouse is disabled; and
- To receive assets from an aged or disabled individual who is trying himself to become eligible for Medicaid.
The goal of the SNT is almost always to ensure that that the beneficiary will not experience a lapse in eligibility for benefits or a reduction of benefits already being received, and to avoid the imposition of a penalty period for an improper transfer upon seeking initial eligibility for benefits. Another important purpose of the SNT, especially in the estate planning situation, is to ensure a pool of funds to pay for advocacy and care management to the beneficiary over time.
Special Needs Trusts can be living trusts or testamentary trust funds and may be either self-settled or created by a third party. In general, a SNT should be irrevocable, unless it is a third-party trust, and the grantor is still living. A trust that is revocable by the grantor/beneficiary will be viewed as an available resource.
Either type of trust may be drafted as a trigger trust and the trust may not start out as a SNT, but the happening of a particular event, such as the beneficiary’s need for Medicaid, may cause the trust to turn into a SNT. Whether or not a trigger trust is effective depends on your state law. The type of trust used depends upon whose money will fund the trust and the age and circumstances of the individual with a disability