Special Needs and Government Benefits
Special needs legal planning is unlike the traditional legal and financial planning where you buy a home, raise your children, plan four years of college education and retirement. Special needs legal planning is planning for two generations. Many adult children with a disability must be supported and protected their entire lives, even long after their parents have died.
As parents of children with special needs and disabilities understand all too well, one of the biggest worries is what will become of your son or daughter after you are gone and no longer here to care for them. Will their quality of life continue or will it suffer? How can you provide the money for the things that they want and need without disqualifying them from receiving government supports?
Here at the Lowcountry Law Office on Aging, Mental Health and Disabilities, LLC, we are dedicated to assisting families in establishing plans which will provide their family members with a disability with a decent quality of life for their entire lifetime while at the same time, preserving their entitlement to government support programs.
"Special Needs" Defined
Special needs refer to maintaining the comfort and happiness of a disabled person who is unable to fully provide for their own health and well-being. Special needs can include medical and dental expenses, annual independent check-ups, equipment, programs of training, education, treatment, and rehabilitation, eye glasses, transportation (including vehicle purchase), maintenance, insurance (including payment of premiums of insurance on the life of the beneficiary), and essential dietary needs. Special Needs Trusts may also include spending money, electronic equipment such as radios, CD players, television sets, and computer equipment, camping, vacations, athletic contests, movies, trips, money to purchase appropriate gifts for relatives and friends, payments for a companion, and other items to enhance self-esteem. It is necessary that Special Needs Trusts be established and drafted properly, and that those trusts work with your wills and other estate planning documents.
Some families begin their future planning activities with the preparation of a simple will. If the child with a disability will likely have long-term medical or support needs, the Special Needs Trust can be a vehicle to supply the funding to provide a lifetime of quality care. Even if the future prognosis of your child is unclear, it is never too early to put plans in place for contingencies to care for your family or child in the event of a parent's sudden death or disability.
A Special Needs Trust can hold cash, stocks, personal property, and real estate. It can own and/or be the beneficiary of life insurance. Special Needs Trusts also can be used to protect personal injury settlements or judgments from jeopardizing government benefit eligibility. Most importantly, special needs trusts can help parents and grandparents coordinate their estate plans and provide peace of mind that the special needs individual will be protected and provided for.
Whether an individual is struggling with the effects of the aging process, a mental illness, or a physical disability, government benefits may be appropriate. In our practice, we help our clients to obtain Medicaid in order to pay for care in a facility or at home. We also inform our clients with respect to resources within the Veteran’s Administration which may be able to help off-set the costs of long-term care.