Children and adults with special needs often qualify for some form of government support. Whether it is Social Security Disability or Medicaid, these benefits are essential to meet the basic needs of someone with physical or cognitive disabilities. In some cases, these benefits are awarded based on the person's financial need. In these situations, the recipient could lose their benefits if they suddenly come into money—for example, through an inheritance. If you want to provide for a loved one with special needs who is on government benefits, one option for doing so is creating a special needs trust.
What Does a Special Needs Trust Do?
Whether you want to make sure a child with special needs is taken care of after your incapacitation or death, or you want to enhance their quality of life now, a special needs trust is one of the essential estate planning documents you should have. When you put money into this particular type of estate planning tool, the trustee can use the funds to enhance the beneficiary's quality of life without jeopardizing their government benefits. While government assistance covers medical care, food, and housing, money from a special needs trust can be used for expenses such as:
- Paying for a personal care attendant
- Covering out-of-pocket medical expenses
- Purchasing a state-of-the-art wheelchair or other assistive devices
- Paying for medical transportation services to get to appointments
- Providing technology such as computers or communication aides
- Covering the cost of special educational programs
- Funding travel, entertainment, athletic competition, and other life-enhancing activities
As long as the money from the trust is not used to pay for basic care, your loved one will not lose access to important need-based benefits.
When Can the Beneficiary Access the Funds?
The person who sets up a special needs trust is known as the grantor. The grantor names a trustee to oversee the distribution of funds. If you are the grantor and you name yourself as the trustee, you can access the funds during your lifetime to pay for whatever the beneficiary needs, as long as it is not a basic need covered by government benefits. If the trust is set up to go into effect after the death of the grantor, a reliable third-party trustee will be named to manage the funds for the beneficiary.
Want to Learn More About Special Needs Trusts?
A special needs trust is a powerful tool for supporting a disabled loved one. Call Littlejohn Law to talk to our estate planning team about how you can help your child with special needs now and in the future.