If you are a parent of a special needs child or if someone with special needs depends on you for financial support, your estate plan should address how your love one will continue receiving support after you are no longer living.
A special needs trust allows you to leave money for the care of your loved one; however, it won’t count against them for their SSI or Medicaid benefits, because technically he or she doesn’t own the trust assets.
Anyone who qualifies as disabled under the Social Security Act should be the beneficiary of a special needs trust. Two types of special needs trusts are the first-party or self-settled trust and the third-party trust. A first-party trust is funded using the beneficiary’s own assets such as money from a gift or a court settlement. Keep in mind that with the first-party trust after the disabled person dies, if there are assets left in the trust, the government is able to retrieve whatever assets are remaining. On the other hand, with a third-party trust that is not the case.
Setting up a special needs trust is not a do-it-yourself project. In order to set up such a trust that will benefit your loved one the most, you will need the assistance of a Arizona estate planning attorney. A lawyer will know how to tailor the special needs trust to conform to your individual circumstances and build as much flexibility as your situation and the law allows.
When the trust is set up, you and your attorney will need to calculate estimated expenses from housing and other living costs including nursing services, and even entertainment. The good news is that the funds in the special needs trust can be used to pay for anything from medical expenses that are not covered by SSI and Medicaid to vacations and trips to the movies, as long as the expenditures help the named beneficiary and improve his or her quality of life.
A parent can add an optional letter of intent which is attached to the trust where the parent gets to express their wishes about how the funds should be used, along with any special notes about the beneficiary’s likes and dislikes. For example, a parent might mention details about their autistic child who will only sleep with the light on or will only wear blue socks. The letter of intent is one of the most personal yet underutilized tools in estate planning.
Are you interested in establishing a special needs trust on behalf of a child living with disabilities? If yes, we urge you to contact a Arizona estate planning attorney from Ferris, Thompson & Zweig for help with this matter. With nearly 30 years of experience handling estate planning matters, we’re confident we can help you create a special needs trust that will protect your loved one’s future.