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The special-needs trust: for some, an instrument of great utility

Many families in Illinois and across the United States share a common stress when it comes to caring for a loved one with special needs.

We note their concern on a relevant page of our website at the Highland estate planning law firm of Donald R. Johannes, which is this: "The law requires that families spend their own resources first before receiving government assistance."

That duty can obviously render things financially tight for most families, creating many challenges for aging parents. As is duly pointed out in a recent Reuters article discussing special-needs children, the most fundamental challenge of all for parents "is planning for their own retirement, [while] balancing that with the long-term needs of a disabled child, who may outlive them."

The Reuters focus notes that, while many aging parents harbor a belief that the government will pick up all of the tab in the special-needs context (via public funding, through state and/or federal outlays), that is not the case. As is highlighted above, parents are on the hook for a great deal of money that they must spend down before a child is deemed eligible for public assistance.

A proven estate planning attorney can speak to that situation and concern, offering timely and valuable input to families with special-needs children who will require long-term financial assistance. Tailored and creative planning can go far toward ensuring that an affected child will be adequately taken care of in the future, while at the same time enabling a family to conserve some assets for other important reasons.

One planning vehicle that materially assists many families across the country is the special-needs trust, which enables an appointed trustee to receive assets on behalf of a disabled loved one. Because trust assets are not under the control of the beneficiary, they are not subject to the scrutiny of government officials weighing eligibility determinations for entitlement programs, such as Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance.

The benefits of a special-needs trust can be wide-ranging. An experienced estate planning attorney can provide details.

 

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