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What is a Special Needs Trust?

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By Phillip B. Rarick, Weston Estate Planning Attorney

Every parent who has a child with a learning or mental disability, or an adult child who cannot secure full time employment because of mental or physical impairment, should know about the value of a Special Needs Trust. Such a trust can help ensure that a person receiving governmental assistance does not lose such assistance, or can qualify for such assistance in the future.

A good way to think about this trust is that it pays “over and above” what benefits a person can receive from state or federal assistance, such as Medicaid or SSI. The trust will pay over and above these benefits for such items as a specially equipped vehicle, dental work, computer, television, and electronic devices not covered by SSI, Medicaid or other public programs. Thus, distributions from the special needs trust are designed to supplement the beneficiary’s public benefits, not replace them.

Failure to have a Special Needs Trust can be costly. If a minor or adult child directly receives benefits from a personal injury settlement or inheritance, such monies can disqualify that person from government assistance.

A Special Needs Trust is a highly technical legal document, and needs to be drafted in a way to provide flexibility for the Trustee to act in the best interests of the disabled person yet meet specific requirements so that the government cannot claim the trust funds should be considered in the application for public assistance.

It is important to consult with an experienced Weston estate planning and trust attorney to ensure that all of the technical requirements for the Special Needs Trust are achieved. Rarick & Beskin has over 20 years of experience in preparing Trusts of all types, including Special Needs Trusts. Let us know if we can help.