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Special Needs Trusts: Advance Planning Makes The Difference

by Phil Levin, Esq. on April 15th, 2010

Individuals with disabilities have special needs, not only physical and emotional, but also financial and legal. The use of Special Needs Trusts can be vitally important to help ensure that such individuals will have financial resources….now and in the future… meet their special needs, without losing eligibility for federal and state financial benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Special Needs Trusts are a critical component of estate plans for clients who want to provide supplemental benefits for a disabled loved one today, as well as when they are no longer able to provide financial benefits and care for a child, grandchild, or other individual with special needs.

The Levin Law Firm is experienced in establishing Special Needs Trusts for individuals with special needs. We can help your clients establish a Special Needs Trust so that government benefit eligibility is preserved, while simultaneously providing an additional source of assets to meet the supplemental needs of individuals with a disability….needs that go beyond the basic necessities of food, shelter, and clothing.

If you have clients who provide care for a child or loved one with special needs, it is important to put in place a plan of action to continue a similar level of care and services when the client is no longer able to provide for a loved one with special needs.

While clients can include specific provisions in their Will that allow a special needs individual to receive assets, such a bequest may prevent a special needs relative from qualifying for essential benefits under Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs.

Unfortunately, in most states, public monetary benefits provide only for the bare necessities such as food, housing and clothing. As you can imagine, these limited benefits will not provide loved ones with the resources that would allow them to enjoy a richer quality of life.

But when clients leave assets outright to a special needs child who is receiving public benefits, parents run a high risk of disqualifying their child from receiving both federal and state government benefits. Fortunately, the government has established rules allowing assets to be held in trust, called a Special Needs Trust, for a recipient of SSI and Medicaid, as long as certain legal requirements are met.

Special Needs Trusts can be used for a variety of life-enhancing expenditures, (without compromising a loved ones eligibility for public programs), such as:

  • Upkeep and repairs of a residence
  • Medical check-ups and dental care, at facilities not covered by Medicaid
  • Attendance at religious services
  • Supplemental education and tutoring
  • Out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses
  • Transportation, including a wheelchair accessible van
  • Purchase and maintenance of a vehicle
  • Purchase of materials for hobbies and recreation activities
  • Funds for trips or vacations
  • Funds for entertainment such as movies, shows, and ball games
  • Purchase of goods and services that add pleasure and quality to the life of a loved one, including computers, videos, furniture, and electronics
  • Athletic training and fees for entrance of competitions
  • Special dietary needs
  • Personal care attendant

With a Special Needs Trust, a loved one can maintain eligibility for public benefits to cover their basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, while funds in the trust can be used to provide for supplemental needs not covered by government benefits, which taken together, can make a significant difference in an individual’s quality of life.

To learn more about how a Special Needs Trust can make a significant difference in the life of a loved one with a disability, please contact The Levin Law Firm to arrange a Complimentary Consultation at (610) 977-2443.

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