Special Needs Estate Planning Attorneys Serving the Boston Area
Special Needs Trusts can be a critical component of your estate planning; these trusts can come in the form of a stand-alone trust funded with separate assets or can be a sub-trust within an existing living trust. Drafting, funding, and administering Special Needs Trusts must be done with great care, as well as with the advice of a highly trained, experienced estate planning attorney.
The Family Estate Planning Law Group focuses on providing for the special needs of loved ones when parents or caregivers are no longer there to organize and advocate on their behalf. We serve families throughout Lynnfield, Wakefield, Reading, Peabody, Danvers, Beverly, Greater Boston, North Shore, and the Southern New Hampshire area. There are a number of different types of trusts which can assist with the planning challenges associated with special needs, including:
Special Needs Trusts—also known as Supplemental Needs Trusts—could potentially be the most effective way to help a child with a disability. A Special Needs Trust can manage resources while simultaneously maintaining the child’s eligibility for public assistance benefits. There are two primary types of Special Needs Trusts, including:
- Third-Party Special Needs Trusts—These are trusts which are created using the parent’s assets as a part of an overall estate plan, distributed by a Will or Living Trust. A Third-Party Special Needs Trust can be created and funded with assets during life, so long as the trust is irrevocable. The Third-Party Special Needs Trust can be included in a revocable living trust, created upon the death of the parent or guardian.
- Self-Settled Special Needs Trust—This type of trust is generally created by a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian. In this type of trust, the child’s assets (like a settlement from a personal injury lawsuit or inheritance) are used to fund the Trust. A Self-Settled Special Needs Trust is also referred to as a D(4)A Trust, and allow a child to receive a settlement or inheritance while remaining eligible for government assistance. If the child dies, and there are assets remaining in the Self-Settled Special Needs Trust, a payback to the state may be required, to the extent the child has received public assistance benefits.
Parents want to ensure their children are well-cared for after the death of the parents. Children with disabilities and special needs, however, have increased financial and care needs, therefore ensuring the child’s long-term welfare can be difficult. Proper planning by the parents is crucial for a child with a disability, whether that child is a minor or an adult. Proper planning can also benefit siblings of the child with special needs who could be left with caretaking responsibilities.
Concerns Related to a Special Needs Trust
Having a Special Needs Trust allows beneficiaries of the Trust to receive lawsuit settlements, gifts, inheritances, and certain other funds, without losing their eligibility for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. A special needs child or adult could have the following concerns:
- Limited financial resources due to lack of earning opportunities.
- Medical concerns associated with the particular special needs. Medical needs could include adaptive equipment, rehabilitative therapies, prescription costs, and home care.
- The necessity for decision-makers following the death of a parent or guardian. Developmental, physical, and cognitive disabilities can require a special needs child or adult to require a named decision-maker.
- Particular challenges associated with social communication and understanding. A lack of social communication and understanding can make it difficult for a disabled child or adult to function in society.
Types of Programs a Special Needs Child Could Be Eligible For
While a special needs child has many financial concerns which must be addressed, there are certain resources available. Medicaid is the primary program which benefits the elderly, disabled, or blind when they have low income and/or limited resources. Healthcare and prescription drug coverage, as well as nursing home coverage or in-home care, may all be covered by Medicaid.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program which provides monthly income for those who are blind or disabled and have few resources as well as extremely low income. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is available for those of any age who are receiving SSI, and who make less than $3,000 in countable assets, excluding his or her home.
If the special needs child or adult child does not have financial resources, then he or she will qualify for Medicaid, and possibly SSI and SNAP. This means that the parent or guardian must plan carefully for the future of the special needs child or adult child. In fact, one of the biggest concerns voiced by parents of a child with disabilities is how to fund their long-term personal and financial needs in a way that will secure a lifestyle geared to the child’s individual abilities and preferences.
A Special Needs Trust allows parents or guardians to put money and resources away for the care of their disabled child later in life while protecting the child’s ability to receive need-based government benefits. The Special Needs Trust can also provide money for extra items that other sources of support fail to provide. While funds in a Special Needs Trust cannot be used for general income, they can still be very valuable for the special need’s child.
It is imperative, when setting up a Special Needs Trust, that a qualified attorney from Family Estate Planning Law Group file the necessary paperwork to establish the trust and the trustee. Our highly experienced attorneys will ensure family members understand how to utilize the trust in the right way. We can answer questions related to a Special Needs Trust such as:
- Do those with special needs beneficiaries need to plan differently? Special needs planning should always occur when a parent or guardian has a beneficiary who is receiving or could potentially receive some type of government benefits due to a physical, mental, or other type of disability. Those with beneficiaries receiving government benefits based on a disability should plan in a manner which will not disqualify the beneficiary from any government benefits.
- Who would be considered a special needs beneficiary? Any special needs beneficiary has a physical, mental, or other type of disability (such as a visual or hearing impairment). Some individuals could be low-functioning, unable to provide for themselves alone, and on some type of government assistance. It is difficult to determine the exact benefits that a special needs individual may need in the future. At Family Estate Planning Law Group, we feel it is right to be cautious—if we think someone may have a special needs beneficiary, we will create a special needs trust that will benefit that person.
- What should I look for when planning for a special needs beneficiary? It can be a balancing act to plan for a special needs beneficiary. The dilemma lies in determining how to provide resources, benefits, and financial assistance to special needs beneficiaries without jeopardizing any present or future government benefits. Parents who want their special needs child to have an equal share of their estate as other children can be presented with certain difficulties, in the same way they can if they want to leave more of their estate to the special needs child.
When you implement Special Needs Estate Planning, you do not have to disinherit a special needs beneficiary to ensure he or she does not lose their benefits. Some parents or guardians simply give a “wink and a nod” to another beneficiary, requesting that person provide for the special needs person. This leaves the responsibility for the care of the special needs person in the hands of a third party who has no fiduciary duty or legal obligation—in other words, there are no legal guarantees. What if that caregiver dies? What if the caregiver undergoes a divorce, bankruptcy or lawsuit, losing the assets necessary to secure the future of the special needs person? All of these issues can be solved with a Special Needs Trust, set up by Family Estate Planning Law Group.