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Special Needs Trusts Lawyer Serving Largo, Clearwater & St. Petersburg FL

Planning For Your Loved Ones With Disability Or Special Needs

If you have a child, spouse, or parent who is disabled or has special needs, it may be vital for you to create a Special Needs Trust. Without this particular type of trust, your loved one may lose the benefits that they greatly rely on for everyday living. Let’s explore how this could happen, and how a Special Needs Trust can be a valuable tool for your family.

Passing On Your Assets While Keeping Disability Benefits

Since your family member has special needs or a disability, you understand how helpful it is to receive benefits. Perhaps your loved one is a recipient of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, Medicaid, vocational rehabilitation, subsidized housing, or the like. You are also aware that these benefit programs require their recipients’ income or assets to be within certain limits. Recipients that go over these asset limits may lose their eligibility for benefits.

Now that you are in your senior years and are planning the future of your estate, you are looking forward to passing on your assets to your loved ones. However, if you transfer those assets directly to your disabled loved one, they may exceed the asset limits of their benefit program. In other words, their inheritance may cause them to lose their benefits.

To get around this, you can set up a Special Needs Trust (also called a Supplemental Needs Trust). This is a legal arrangement where you place your assets in a trust and have it managed by third party you choose called a trustee. The trustee is responsible for managing your funds on behalf of your disabled loved one, and according to your own terms.

What makes a Special Needs Trust different from other kinds of trust is that it is intended specifically to allow beneficiaries to keep receiving their disability assistance. The trust is managed by your trustee, and your disabled loved one actually has no control over the trust assets. This is why benefit programs such as SSI and Medicare do not count the assets placed in a Special Needs Trust, so the disabled beneficiary does not go over the asset limits.

Your loved one can keep receiving their public benefits while also benefiting from the assets you have placed in the trust.

Important Things To Know About Special Needs Trust

We know that a Special Needs Trust is advantageous for your disabled loved one. However, there are also fundamental rules that you must follow in setting up this kind of trust. Take note of these key considerations when planning for your disabled beneficiary:

  • A special needs trust cannot give money directly to the disabled. Any money that your disabled loved one receives may put their benefit eligibility at risk. Once your Special Needs Trust is in place, it cannot disburse actual money to your loved one. To put it plainly, a check cannot be written for cash to the disabled. Instead, your trustee can spend the trust assets on a wide variety of purposes for the disabled, such as personal care attendants, education, and out-of-pocket medical costs.
  • A special needs trust is irrevocable. If a trust is irrevocable, you cannot change or cancel its terms. However, this also means that the assets in the trust are protected. They cannot be seized by creditors, they cannot be subject to liens, and they cannot be jeopardized in lawsuits.
  • A special needs trust needs particular language. The wording of the trust document is crucial to make it valid for special needs. You must clearly state that the trust is to provide “supplemental and extra care” beyond government benefits. You must also include relevant references to benefit programs. For example, you’ll want to reference how the Social Security Operations Manual authorizes the creation of your special needs trust.
    There are other wording considerations that are important in this type of trust. If you do not feel confident about drafting the document yourself, do not hesitate to seek the guidance of a lawyer.
  • You must establish the trust before your disabled loved one is 65 years old.
  • You may opt to pool your special needs trust. A pooled trust is managed by a non-profit organization. The non-profit combines and invests the funds from various trustors, while still maintaining each trust beneficiary’s individual account. That is, your loved one would still have their own trustee (chosen by the non-profit) and would still benefit from your trust just as you arranged.
    One of the reasons that some families pool their trust is to find a highly appropriate trustee, since it is the non-profit who chooses the trustee for each account. Another reason is that pooled trusts can be created even when the beneficiary is over 65.
    If you are considering a pooled special needs trust, consult an attorney to understand its pros and cons, and to wisely select a non-profit organization to manage your trust.

Creating The Most Beneficial Special Needs Trust

It is possible to draft a Special Needs Trust by yourself. But first, you must be certain that you understand the details and implications of it – from the many real-world scenarios to anticipate, down to the very specific choice of words in your document.

Remember, this trust is key to ensuring that your loved one is well cared for in the future, especially given their special needs. You want this trust to be highly efficient and legally sound.

In Florida, let attorney Ted Schofner help you make an ideal Special Needs Trust. Mr. Schofner has assisted Floridians like you in securing the future of their loved ones, and he has been doing so for over two decades.

Contact The Schofner Law Firm today at 1-800-891-9996 or through our online contact form.

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