There are more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States.
10% of Americans have a family member with some sort of intellectual disability.
The lifetime cost of caring for just one individual with autism can be as high as $2.4 million.
A Special Needs Trust (SNT), also called a Supplemental Needs Trust, is a critically important estate planning tool that should be considered when a disabled person, of any age, stands to receive a substantial asset(s). Such assets may stem from an inheritance, a personal injury settlement, or even child support. The SNT makes it possible for disabled beneficiaries to receive assets without becoming disqualified for the benefits which are vital to their care and quality of life.
Why is a Special Needs Trust So Important?
A disabled individual is often highly dependent upon government benefits for various types of support and services – some of which are only available through government programs. However, to receive this assistance, there are financial thresholds that, if exceeded, will result in disqualification.
For most people, to pay for replacements of the supports and services which disability benefits provide will be financially devastating and simply unsustainable for more than a few years. When the money runs out, benefits can resume, but without additional financial resources to supplement care, housing, recreation, travel, etc.
While government benefits are absolutely essential, it is also true that they are not solely sufficient to provide a desirable quality of life. The Special Needs Trust leverages privately held assets to “supplement,” and not replace, government benefits.
Why Do You Need The Assistance of An Experienced Attorney?
Just as an automobile needs to be well built and have a skilled driver to function as it should, a special needs trust must be properly drafted and correctly administered with the guidance of experienced special needs trust attorneys in order for it to qualify as non-countable. Error on either of these two essential components can cause a disqualifying event; wise counsel is essential.
Is A Special Needs Trust Limited To Benefits Planning?
Far more than just benefits planning, the SNT becomes the anchor of your Special Needs Plan. This plan includes a financial evaluation and practical strategies that will ensure the beneficiary can thrive throughout his or her lifetime. Such planning often involves the attorney and financial advisor working in tandem to determine lifetime funding needs and tactics, the creation of a support team of individuals who can serve in both an advocacy and advisory capacity for the protection of the beneficiary, and the crafting of a letter of intent to outline instructions and goals.
The following are a sampling of some of the issues and factors that need to be assessed and analyzed prior to the drafting of a special needs trust:
- The age of the beneficiary
- Nature of the disability and its anticipated duration
- Functional abilities and limitations of the beneficiary:
- Can he/she look after their own hygiene?
- Can he/she cook and clean?
- Can he/she handle their own finances?
- Can he/she live by themselves?
- Can he/she participate in decisions to be made?
- Is he/she employed, duration of employment and current salary?
- What is his/her level of education?
- Has he/she received any special training to be employable?
- Current living arrangements and needs for the future
- Any government benefits received by the beneficiary
- Anticipated future needs of the beneficiary
- Financial resources available
For more information on these trusts and other estate planning tools, it is best to consult with a special needs trust lawyer.
Legal Options for a Special Needs Trust Plan for the future care of your child with a disability
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