Estate planning can be complex when we are caring for a family member with special needs. Our primary concern when creating this plan is to select a guardian who will care for our family member on a day-to-day basis. Then we need to enlist the help of a financial professional who will invest the money from the estate and ensure the distributions will not disqualify our family member from receiving government benefits.

While we may select a family member to serve as the guardian, we should use caution before naming them as the beneficiary of our estate. In many cases inheritances benefiting individuals with special needs are left to close family members so that they can provide financial support for them throughout their lives. Since the money is technically in the name of the family member and not the individual with special needs, our loved one could be without financial support if there is a divorce, lawsuit, or death.

Special Needs Trusts have been designed specifically to help families of individuals with physical or mental disabilities. Under these trusts, the beneficiaries are able to hold assets without disqualifying them from Social Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid benefits. Like other trusts, we must pick a trustee to make sure that our wishes are carried out according to our plan.

Ask Yourself…

  • Do I have a guardian selected?
  • What type of lifestyle would we like to provide for our family member?
  • Would an inheritance affect their current benefits (if applicable)?
  • If a Special Needs Trust has been written, who is the trustee?