Special Needs Planning

Special Needs Planning

Persons with disabilities often need lifelong assistance with the routine tasks.  If you are currently caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with a special need, be it mental or physical, an important consideration is who will take over that care-giving role, both personally (who will make the decisions?) and financially (who will provide the funding?), when you are no longer able to do so.

Special Needs Planning

Decision-Making for the Person with Special Needs:

One important aspect of planning is who will make financial and medical decisions for your loved one when you are no longer able to do so.  If your loved one with special needs has the legal capacity to do so, he or she may be able to execute medical and financial powers of attorney to name a decision-maker.  If that capacity is lacking, then the establishment of a guardianship and conservatorship maybe appropriate, so that a trusted individual can help make the important decisions for the disabled adult.

Financial Assistance for the Person with Special Needs:

The first step in planning for your loved one’s financial future is guaranteeing your loved one is receiving all public benefits he or she is entitled to.  The next step is ensuring that any inheritance they receive does not disqualify them from those public benefits, but instead provides them with life-enriching resources they may not otherwise have access to.   Federal law provides that assets may be held in a “special” or “supplemental” needs trust for a disabled recipient of public benefits.  This type of trust preserves eligibility for public benefits while providing funding to meet the supplemental needs that go beyond the basics of public benefits.  The trust can be used for a variety of life-enhancing expenditures, such as education and tutoring, transportation, recreational activities, vacations or entertainment, electronics, furniture, or a personal care attendant.

The world of special needs planning is vast and complex.  Just as your loved one may be eligible for public benefits you were not aware of, a particular model of special needs trust may be necessary to protect an expected inheritance. Considering this, it is critically important that you work with a practitioner well versed in this area of the law.