Solid estate planning must always take into account family members with special needs. There are “special needs trusts,” also known as “supplemental needs trusts” which can be created for this purpose. Working with a special needs lawyer is the best way to make sure you are setting your loved one up to be cared for when you are no longer able to do so.
Special needs trusts can be set up and funded in many ways. They can be revocable or irrevocable and can spring to life upon your passing or start during your life. Much will depend on how the trust is funded. If you are the only one to contribute, then choosing a trust which springs to life upon your death may be the best choice.
If other family members, such as grandparents, aunts or uncles will also be contributing to the trust then it makes the most sense to create the trust now. If you are sure that the parents will be the only contributors, then you might want to consider a revocable trust, as it can be changed throughout your lifetime to reflect the choices you want to make over the course of time.
One of the most important things to consider is who will be the trustee. This person will administer the trust which has been created to care for your loved one. Careful thought needs to go into choosing this person, as he or she will have a significant impact on your loved one's life. They will have access to their funds and make a lot of important decisions regarding your loved one's care.
Your special needs lawyer can help you define this person through your legal documents, but you must make the decision to ensure your chosen trustee is trustworthy and has your loved ones' best interests at heart. Not only should he or she be very familiar with the specific needs of the family member regarding medical issues, but your trustee must also be aware of the things important to your loved one – such as favorite foods and hobbies.
Another major concern is determining how much money needs to go into the trust. Costs will likely continue to rise over time, so basing totals on today's costs will likely not be adequate. A special needs lawyer will help you access the most common costs and assist in making smart projections to ensure your loved one has enough money for the future.
Now you may be wondering if you can create a special needs trust yourself. The short answer is yes, and no. Of course you can find many one-size-fits-all special needs trusts online, but considering your loved one's unique needs, they are really not a good idea. These cookie cutter documents often fail to take into account the benefits your loved one is receiving, your specific financial situation, your desires and goals for your loved one's future and more. One tiny mistake in this area could completely jeopardize your loved one's ability to receive benefits such as Medicaid. Or, it could cause your trust to be totally invalid, leaving important decisions about your loved one's future to the courts. We know you would never want this for your loved one, and that's why it's a good idea to at least talk to a lawyer before creating legal documents that are as critically important as a special needs trust.
So if you need help creating a special needs trust or you'd simply like to know more about your options, our attorneys are happy to meet with you at no-charge with the mention of this article. Simply call our office at (260) 969-1177 or click here and ask to schedule a complimentary planning session.