As a parent of a child with special needs, your main concerns when it comes to Estate Planning are probably: “Who will step into my shoes and provide for my child when I’m gone?” And, “How can I make sure that my child is provided for?” Unfortunately, a lot of bad information on the internet directs parents of children with special needs to completely disinherit their child to maintain his or her eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and housing assistance. While this would accomplish the goal of preserving government benefits, we at Martin Lawyers believe it is the worst way to help a child with special needs.
Both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid are means-tested programs with very strict income and asset limits. Naturally, parents are concerned about leaving their child an inheritance, as even a small amount of money could cause the child to lose health insurance and benefits for everyday survival. The problem is government benefits do not cover everything your child needs or provide any payments for your child’s comfort or enjoyment. While SSI may provide a small cash benefit, it is not nearly enough to support a person with special needs for their lifetime.
As lawyers that help clients in Parker County with Special Needs planning, we know the simple legal tool that can help parents accomplish both of their goals: the ability to leave money for the long-term care and financial security of their child without causing ineligibility for any government aid that he or she is receiving. That tool is a Third Party Special Needs Trust.
The Special Needs Trust holds assets for the child so that they are not legally in his or her name. The parent appoints a trustee (often the parent or parents) who is tasked with managing and overseeing the child’s funds. This can be the parent initially, and then the role may transition to a loved one or even a professional trustee when the parent is unable to serve due to age, their own disability, or death.
Funds in the Special Needs Trust supplement the child’s government benefits. The Special Needs Trust would cover expenses that enrich your child’s life such as recreational expenses, education, counseling, modifications to vehicles or homes, medical expenses not covered by benefits, and anything else they may want or need to make their life longer, happier, healthier, and more fulfilling.
Special Needs Trusts can also receive life insurance payouts, so even if parents do not have a ton of liquid assets during their life to put into the trust, they can still provide for their child with special needs when they pass away. Additionally, individuals with disabilities who don’t necessarily rely on government benefits can still benefit from Special Needs Trust, because appointing a Trustee to manage the individual’s assets provides additional oversight and protects the child from financial abuse.
At Martin Lawyers, we are passionate about helping families protect themselves and their loved ones, especially special needs children that need this type of assistance and special needs planning. If you’ve received bad advice about disinheriting your special needs child and you’ve created an estate plan that reflects that choice, we invite you to contact us today to discuss better options. Or, if you’re a parent of a child with special needs and don’t have an estate plan in place, create one with us and have peace of mind knowing your child will be taken care of after you’re gone. Please call our office at (817) 752-3307 to schedule an appointment with one of our special needs lawyers, either by phone or by appointment in person at our Aledo, TX office.