Special Needs Planning
Gary L. White, Esq.
Special Needs Planning
While there are many ways to provide for the needs of healthy heirs and beneficiaries, planning for a loved one with special needs requires great care and attention. Leaving money or property directly to a disabled person in your will or making her a beneficiary of a standard living trust can put critical benefits at risk.
If a loved one is dependent or is likely to become dependent on Medicaid or other public benefits, there is a better option. Federal law provides for the creation of a special needs trust, also called a supplemental needs trust. When properly created and managed, a special needs trust can provide benefits to your disabled loved one without jeopardizing benefits.
Florida Special Needs Trusts
Of course, anyone can create any type of trust to benefit a special needs person. However, to protect against the potential loss of benefits and access to medical care, the trust must fulfill specific requirements. Working with an estate lawyer experienced in the creation of special needs trusts is generally the best way to avoid missteps that may put your loved one at risk.
Some key considerations include:
The age and disability status of the beneficiary
The relationship between the grantor and the beneficiary
The ability of the beneficiary (and, in some cases, the grantor) to alter the terms of the trust or control trust assets
The purposes for which trusts assets may be distributed
The benefits of creating a special needs trust within a revocable living trust
If the terms of the trust allow for certain types of distributions, the trust will not qualify as a special needs trust and will not be effective in protecting eligibility for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For example, the trust terms must not entitle the elderly or disabled beneficiary to income, and the trustee must not be empowered to pay the costs of food and shelter.
While this may sound very limiting, there are several ways in which a qualified special needs trust can improve quality of life for the beneficiary. For example, the trust may pay for caregiving services not covered by Medicaid, travel, and educational expenses.
We Can Help You Provide for Your Elderly or Disabled Family Member
Attorney Gary L. White has the knowledge and experience necessary to create a qualified special needs trust to protect your loved one. Call us right now to get started.