Special Needs Planning
Aug 31, 2017 Posted by Richard Chamberlain

If you have a child or other loved one (whether a minor or an adult) with special needs, such as mental or physical disabilities, you know that caring for them requires special care and planning. Their special needs require that special attention be given to making sure they will be provided for and cared for. Special planning is especially important if they are receiving needs-based government assistance benefits, or may need such benefits in the future.

Make sure that your own estate planning is setup correctly so that your loved one will continue to receive their government assistance benefits after you are gone.

Needs-Based Government Assistance

As you may know, needs-based governmental assistance benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance, provide only for the bare necessities. The benefits do not provide your loved one with the resources that allow him or her to enjoy a richer quality of life. However, if your child has too much of their own income, or has too much of their own resources, they could lose their benefits. As a result, you have to supplement the benefits and provide from your own resources for those needs that are not covered by the government assistance.

When a person with special needs is receiving needs-based government assistance, it is especially important to understand how your estate planning can impact that assistance. If you leave an inheritance for your special needs loved one, that inheritance may cause them to be ineligible for further government assistance. As a result, they would be forced to spend all of their inheritance on their basic needs that had previously been covered by their assistance. When all of their inheritance has been spent down, they will again be eligible for assistance programs, and they will have to go through the process of applying and qualifying all over again.

While they would ultimately return to eligibility for benefits, the critical difference is that once their inheritance has been spent down, there will no longer be funds available to provide for any of their supplemental, quality-of-life needs.

The Solution

The solution for many families is creating a Supplemental Needs Trust. As stated above, the receipt of too much income or having too much in resources (such as through an inheritance) leads to a loss of government assistance. However, funds in a Supplemental Needs Trust are not counted as income or resources of the beneficiary, allowing the assistance to be maintained.

Funds from Supplemental Needs Trusts can be used to provide for those quality of life needs that are not covered by the governmental benefits, including schooling, vacations, home companions, electronics, and social events.

Supplemental Needs Trusts

By using a Supplemental Needs Trust in your estate planning to provide for your child with special needs, you can:

Protect eligibility for government benefits
Provide for a higher quality of life for your child
Provide a framework for the care and management of assets
Extend the life of assets for your child with special needs

Avoid These Mistakes

Thinking that you have to disinherit your disabled child to preserve their benefits
Leaving assets to another child with the hope that they will care for your disabled child after you are gone

If you have questions about using a Supplemental Needs Trust in your estate planning to protect and provide for your loved one with special needs, call us at 419-872-7670 and schedule an appointment to talk through your options. We offer a free, no-obligation initial consultation on estate planning matters, and we'll be happy to answer your questions and help you through this important process.

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About the author
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Richard Chamberlain Richard M. Chamberlain is the founder and principal attorney of the Chamberlain Law Group, Ltd. and is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association section on Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law. He has an undergraduate degree in Economics, magna cum laude, from Tulane University (1989) and received his law degree from Florida State University (1992), where he was a member of the Law Review. Richard was born in Port Sulfur, Louisiana (about an hour south of New Orleans – yes, there is land an hour south of New Orleans) in 1967. When he was 3, his family moved to Baton Rouge, where they lived until he was in college at Tulane University in New Orleans. After graduating from Tulane, Richard attended The Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee, Florida, where he earned his law degree in 1992. While practicing law in Tampa, Florida, Richard met a beautiful girl named Kelly Sancraint (a transplant originally from Toledo, Ohio). They were soon married, and as they began their family, they made the decision in 1998 to move back to the Toledo area to be near family. Richard founded his own law practice (“The Law Office of Richard M. Chamberlain, Ltd.”) in Perrysburg, Ohio in 2007, focusing on the practice areas of estate planning and estate administration, business formation and planning, elder law and real estate law. In 2012, with the addition of his first associate attorney, the name of the firm was changed to “Chamberlain Law Group, Ltd.” Richard is a member of WealthCounsel, a cooperative alliance of nationally recognized estate planning attorney members from across the country. as well as being a member of The Rotary Club of Perrysburg and the Perrysburg Chamber of Commerce. Richard also serves on the Board of the Perrysburg Schools Foundation, and he serves in several ministries at CedarCreek Church. Richard and Kelly have 4 daughters, 1 son-in-law, and 1 granddaughter, who keep them both very busy with their varied interests.