Special Needs Planning focuses on providing for the special needs of our loved ones with disabilities when we are no longer there to organize and advocate on their behalf. Parents of children with special needs must make careful estate planning choices to coordinate all of the legal, financial, and special care needs of their children – both now and in the future.
An Overview of Special Needs Planning
There are several types of trusts to assist with these special planning challenges. The most common types are Support Trusts and Special Needs Trusts.
- Support Trusts: Support Trusts require the Trustee to make distributions for the child’s support in areas like food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and educational services. Beneficiaries of Support Trusts are not eligible to receive financial assistance through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. If your child will require SSI or Medicaid, you should avoid a Support Trust.
- Special Needs Trusts: For many parents, a Special Needs Trust is the most effective way to help their child with a disability. A Special Needs Trust manages resources while also maintaining the child’s eligibility for public assistance benefits.
There are two types of Special Needs Trusts:
- Third-Party Special Needs Trust: Created using the assets of the parent(s) as part of an estate plan; distributed by a Will or Living Trust.
- Self-Settled Special Needs Trust: Generally created by a parent, grandparent or legal guardian using the child’s assets to fund the Trust (e.g., when the child receives a settlement from a personal injury lawsuit and will require lifelong care). If assets remain in the Trust after the child’s death, a payback to the state is required, but only to the extent the child receives public assistance benefits.
Special Needs Trusts are a critical component of your estate planning if you have loved ones with disabilities for whom you wish to provide after your passing. Generally, Special Needs Trusts are either stand-alone trusts funded with separate assets (like life insurance) or they can be sub-trusts in existing living trusts.
Special Needs and Social Security Disability Benefits
Children with disabilities, adults who are disabled since childhood and those who become disabled as adults may be eligible for benefits from Social Security, known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). People with low income and limited resources who are 65 or older, or blind, or disabled may also qualify for Social Security Income. This is a needs-based program where benefits can be lost if a person receives an inheritance or converts an exempt asset to a non-exempt asset. The Law Office of Stephen J. Silverberg helps clients and families whose Special Needs members need the additional support of SSDI or SSI.
Special Needs Planning Online Resource Center
Planning for your loved one with special needs requires extensive research to become a well-educated advocate. You will want to keep up-to-date on the latest medical, educational, financial, and legal changes. The Law Office of Stephen J. Silverberg, PC. provides assistance to you and your family in addressing your unique concerns. We hope this Special Needs Resource Center provides you with a quick reference to find the additional resources you may need.
Social Security Resources:
- Child Disability Starter Kit – Fact Sheet
- Social Security Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST)
- Handbook for Trustees: A special needs trust can be a very powerful aid in managing care for a family member with a disability. It can provide supplemental items like therapy, respite care, dental work, companions, entertainment, education — all without interfering with the beneficiary’s SSI, Medicaid or other government programs. The special needs trust can be a flexible tool. It can also be very difficult and confusing to administer. Download a free copy of the Handbook for Trustees
- Exceptional Parent online: Online resource for the special needs community, including families, caregivers, physicians, allied health care professionals, and teachers.
- The Arc: The Arc is a national organization of and for people with mental disabilities and related developmental disabilities and their families. The Arc works to promote and improve support and services for people with mental disabilities and their families and also fosters research into and education about the prevention of these disabilities in infants and young children.
- National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys: The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys is a non-profit association that assists lawyers, bar organizations and others who work with older clients and their families. The Academy provides information, education, networking and assistance to those who deal with the many specialized issues involved with legal services to the elderly and people with special needs.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is dedicated to improving the lives of persons living with serious mental illness and their families. There are NAMI organizations in every state and in over 1,100 local communities across the country.
- Center for Parent Information & Resources: All the materials found on the CPIR Hub have been created and archived for Parent Centers around the country to help them provide support and services to the families they serve. The CPIR employs a user-centered process, gathering the perspectives of our experienced audience—Parent Center staff members and other experts—every step of the way, to create products and services that increase Parent Centers’ knowledge and capacity in specific domains.
- Annual Disability Statistics Compendium: This publication, the first Compendium, focuses on state-level statistics published by Federal agencies.
Calculating Your Loved One’s Future Financial Needs
This calculator can help you project the future expenses of an individual with special needs.