Special needs estate planning is incredibly important. If you are the guardian or parent of a child with special needs, you’re likely wondering what will happen to your child after you’re no longer here. Parents and guardians of special needs children and adults face unique challenges when it comes to estate planning. In many cases, a parent will simply give his or her estate to a child with special needs through a last will and testament. However, doing so could make the child with special needs ineligible for crucial public benefits such as Medicaid and Social Security Income (SSI).
At Palmer & Slay, PLLC, we can help you create a special needs estate plan that provides supplemental income for your loved one beyond food, shelter, and clothing. We will help you protect your loved one by keeping your assets safe and available for your child. One of our experienced lawyers can help you set up a special needs trust to ensure your child stays eligible for public benefits. We provide effective, comprehensive estate planning for parents of children and adults with special needs.
The Goals of Special Needs Planning
Special needs estate planning is a different process than typical estate planning. The goal of special needs estate planning is to make sure that your child with special needs will have everything he or she needs to live a comfortable and happy life after you’re gone. One of the main goals of special-needs estate planning is ensuring that your child with special needs will qualify and remain eligible for essential government benefits, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Our law firm will also maximize the private resources and government benefits available to you and your child with special needs so you can protect your assets. In most cases, families benefit from creating a special needs trust that will protect your assets and pay for your child’s care over his or her lifetime. Addressing the care and financial needs of other family members is an important part of special needs estate planning. At Palmer & Slay, PLLC, we spend time getting to know our clients to understand a complete picture of what their family’s unique needs and goals are to create an effective estate plan.
The Benefits of Creating a Special Needs Trust
A special needs trust is a legal document that allows a person with a physical or mental disability or medical condition to access money without losing his or her public benefits. When you create a special needs trust, you will appoint one or more trustees to manage the trust on behalf of your loved one. The trustee will manage the trust and distribute the funds to your loved one. Properly established special needs trusts are irrevocable, meaning the assets are protected from creditors.
Your child with special needs will be able to access funds from the trust to pay for financial needs not covered by their public assistance benefits. The assets in a special needs trust can be used to pay for the following expenses:
- Transportation costs
- Educational expenses
- Work-related expenses
- Caretaker costs of caretakers
- Housing expenses
- Computer equipment
- Pet supplies
- Medical expenses not covered by Medicaid
- Other permitted expenses
We Will Help Create a Special Needs Trust That Meets Your Needs
A special needs trust is an integral part of a comprehensive estate plan. No two special needs trusts are the same. Your attorney will create a special needs trust that meets your family’s unique needs. We will meet with you and get to know you and your special needs family member to ensure that the special needs trust will meet his or her needs after you pass away.
For example, if your loved one with a special need plans to attend college or a vocational school, we can ensure that the trust agreement provides money for his or her classes, books, and related fees. Or, if you would like your child to continue living in your family home after you are gone, we can transfer ownership of the house into the special needs trust. We can help you appoint a caretaker to act as a guardian for your child so he or she can stay in your home and avoid the disruption of moving during an already challenging transition time.
Third-Party Special Needs Trusts
Third-party special needs trusts are the most common types of trusts. Typically, the parents of a child with special needs will create a third-party trust and transfer property into the trust through their estate plan. Grandparents, friends, and other family members can also transfer assets or property into the trust. However, you must abide by the trust agreement requirements and avoid using the trust funds for anything that could make your special-needs relative ineligible for public benefits.
First-Party Special Needs Trusts
First-party trusts are often used when the person with special needs already has his or her own assets or expects to inherit assets. First-party trusts are funded by property owned by the individual with special needs, not by a third party. Most first-party trusts are funded by personal injury lawsuit damages awards, assets from a retirement plan, assets from a divorce settlement, a life insurance policy, or an inheritance.
In some cases, our clients choose to appoint a trust management company or a special needs non-profit to act as the trustee. Doing so can be incredibly beneficial and ensure that the trust management meets all federal and state guidelines and that your child uses assets from the trust on qualifying supplemental needs.
Contact an Experienced Special Needs Lawyer Today
Creating a special needs estate plan can help both you and your special needs child tremendously. If you would like to learn more about creating a special needs estate plan in Mississippi, please contact our law firm and schedule an initial consultation.