Estate planning is only good to the extent that it takes an individual’s unique circumstances and goals into consideration. For this reason, there can never be a one size fits all estate plan. Because of circumstances, what works for one family will not necessarily work for another family. For families with special needs members, there are specific concerns that need to be addressed for an estate plan to be a good fit.
Because of the costs associated with caring for a special needs child, financial considerations are foremost for families with such children. Because of the way government programs such as Medicare and other government benefits programs operate with respect to eligibility, it is important to determine how to financially support a special needs family member without disqualifying them from important benefits.
One of the most common ways of working around eligibility requirements for special needs individuals is to put money and property into a trust for the benefit of the special needs individual. Because they do not have control over the assets, they are not counted against them with respect to eligibility. Special needs trusts also provide protection from creditors.
Working around eligibility requirements for benefits programs is only one aspect of special needs planning, of course, but it is an important one. Without taking the steps necessary to provide adequate funding for a special needs individual, they will not be able to benefit from the wealth left for them, at least not in the way you want them to.
Source: Forbes, “Planning For the Future of a Loved One with Special Needs,” September 24, 2013.