If you are the parent of a special needs child you likely worry about your child’s future. Specifically, you may worry about the day when you are no longer around to provide the day to day care and the financial support your child will likely always need. A special needs trust can go a long way toward alleviating your concerns and ensuring that your special needs child is financially provided for long after you are gone.
Although each special needs individual is unique, most share a need for some type of assistance. Typically, this assistance is provided by federal programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. These programs, however, has income and resource limits that will disqualify your child if he or she exceeds the limits. While the income limit may not be an issue, a sudden infusion of cash from a well-meaning relative or from your own Last Will and Testament could cause your child to lose eligibility for much needed assistance. As a parent, however, you likely want to ensure that whatever assets you are able to leave behind are used to supplement your child’s care after you are gone. The solution is a special needs trust.
Also referred to as a supplemental needs trust, a special needs trust is a very specific type of trust that is used to hold assets for the benefit of a special needs individual without jeopardizing his or her eligibility for state and federal assistance programs. Assets held by a special needs trust may only be used for specific purposes to “supplement” the assistance provided by state and federal programs; however, when drafted properly a special needs trust can ensure that assets you leave behind will be available for your child’s care and necessities.
For a trust to be considered a special needs trust for the purposes of federal assistance programs very specific language must be used in the drafting of the trust instrument. Without the required language the trust will not qualify as a special needs trust and could, therefore, cause your child to lose eligibility for much needed assistance. For this reason, be sure to consult with your estate planning attorney early on if you are the parent of a special needs child to ensure that your assets are available to your child when you are no longer here yourself.