Many families include a person with special needs who receives Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Medicaid, or other government benefits. These benefits may provide food, shelter, and/or medical care. Careful planning needs to be in place with your estate plan to make sure you don’t jeopardize those benefits of these family members.
Disinheriting Your Special Needs Loved One: Don’t Do It
Sometimes the loved ones of the special needs beneficiaries have been told to simply disinherit their loved one. The idea is that they want to make sure the person receiving government benefits does not suddenly go over a resource limit. But keep in mind that those government benefits rarely provide more than basic needs. And this solution (which normally involves leaving the inheritance to another sibling) does not allow loved ones to help their special needs beneficiaries after they themselves become incapacitated or die.
A Better Solution: Special Needs Trust
The best solution is for loved ones to create a special needs trust to hold the inheritance of a special needs beneficiary. Such a trust can take into account each person’s individual needs and concerns. These trust can be flexible depending on each situation. And when set up in advance, other family members can also contribute to the trust.
The last thing you want to do is nothing, so do get started by calling an attorney. An unexpected inheritance—from a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle—can end a person’s eligibility and create needless complexities in reapplying for benefits later.
Working with an attorney who understand this unique area of law—and the unique types of trusts that qualify under this type of planning—is key in protecting your loved one’s benefits. Planning carefully also means any assets remaining after the death of the special needs beneficiary can carry forward to benefit other family members.