If you are planning to leave assets to a child or other beneficiary with special needs, one of the first things you should consider is the use of a supplemental needs trust.

We plan our estates to ensure our loved ones will be okay after we are gone. If a loved one has mental or physical special needs, then your estate planning needs some special planning itself. So what more should you do to ensure the happiness and wellbeing of your child with special needs?

Special planning is, of course, very much tied to the needs of your child with special needs and to the needs of the rest of your family. As you might imagine, such planning entails important tools, rules and guides. To get started, consider a recent article in The Slott Report titled “3 Tips When Planning for a Special Needs Child.

One of the keys to special needs planning is understanding how public assistance aid works and its sources. Generally, the two major sources are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Both programs are “needs-based.” In other words, eligibility to receive benefits is all about qualifying financially, preserving that qualification, and ensuring a painless transition (read: not getting caught in bureaucracy).

Tip #1: Consider implementing the all-important Supplemental Needs Trust. Properly drafted and funded, this is a special trust designed to offer security and care, without endangering needs-based program benefits.

Tip #2: Plan ahead and plan carefully! These public assistance benefits may not be enough or offer as much security as you would want to ensure. In fact, you might want to find a way to leave more behind. Life insurance is an excellent option.

Tip #3: What’s the final tip? You need to plan for yourself, too, and for your entire estate. As important as your loved one with special needs is, you have to ensure that the rest of your plans work together, too. For example, make sure to plan for threats to your own financial security, like high long-term care costs in old age. Without proper planning now, all could be lost later. In the end, if there is no security for you, then there may be no future security for your loved ones.

The original article has a bit more to chew on, with some helpful pointers to get you moving in the right direction.

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Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
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