Your family must plan for the future carefully if you have a family member with a disability:
  • When you want to provide for the wellbeing of a disabled child while you are alive, or through your estates on your death.
  • When the disabled person inherits a direct monetary gift, or receives a settlement in a personal injury case.
  • When a disabled elder requires long-term care assistance from the government, and a spouse or other family member wishes to provide additional funds to enhance the elder's quality of life.

To protect your family member with special needs, it is essential to have a well-defined plan. You can set up a simple special needs trust to provide for the person's material comfort and wellbeing. You can also use a special needs trust to protect the assets of a parent or spouse - and prevent that person from becoming exhausted by the cost of long-term care.

How A Special Needs Trust Works
A special needs trust, if correctly worded, can provide funds for a disabled person's well-being while preserving the person's eligibility for government aid. Unlike a standard trust, which can be considered an available resource of the beneficiary - the disabled person - a properly drafted special needs trust includes, among other specific provisions, a requirement that all decisions are in the hands of the trustee; the trust is then not considered an asset of the disabled person by Social Security and Medicaid. Thus, you can provide added treatment and comforts during the life of the disabled loved one, yet that loved one remains eligible for government benefits and assistance.

Special needs trusts are complicated because so many benefit laws and regulations apply at both state and federal government levels. Depending upon the source of the trust funds, some special needs trusts must be court-approved, may have age restrictions that apply, or may have a requirement that the state be paid back from any funds remaining after the death of the beneficiary.

When You Need Assistance
Mary assists clients in the many aspects of creating and administering special needs trusts, including:
  • Assessing which assets are to be transferred into the special needs trust.
  • Advising you about what type of special needs trust best fits your needs.
  • Preparing the trust document.
  • Petitioning the court for approval of the trust, as necessary.

For a special needs trust that is already in place, Mary advises and represents trustees in performing their fiduciary and reporting duties, including the filing of regular trust reports and accountings with the court and complying with any other reporting requirements. In addition, she advises the trustees of the trust on how to make distributions that will have minimal impact on the beneficiary's continued eligibility for public benefits such as SSI and Medicaid.