Special needs planning for people with disabilities. Did you know that ten percent of the families in America have a family member who is disabled as defined by federal regulations? This can be a minor child who suffered malpractice at birth. It can also be an adult who has been injured in a traffic accident or an industrial accident. It can even be a senior citizen who has suffered neglect in a nursing home and incurred serious injuries as a result of the neglect.
If this describes anyone in your family, we at Waller & Mitchell can help you. There are federal and state programs designed to assist individuals with these kinds of injuries and require special care and assistance. These programs are all means tested. That means that you cannot have more than a certain amount of money in order to qualify for assistance through these programs.
When these types of injuries happen to someone, typically there is a lawsuit filed on behalf of the injured party, and this lawsuit can result in hundreds of thousands, or even in some cases millions of dollars, that are made available to that person.
Now, at first glance this may seem good. But, the problem really can be two-fold. First, that money has to last for the entire lifetime of the individual. Second, if they receive that money in their individual names, they will be disqualified from public assistance benefits because of this specifically mentioned means test.
There is, however, a special kind of trust authorized under federal law that is called a Special Needs Trust. In a Special Needs Trust, the money from the lawsuit settlement can be deposited into the trust and a trustee can be named and then the trustee can pay the special needs of the individual. The public benefits are still qualified for the individual, and they will pick up the basic nursing care and medical care of the individual.
Governmental and social assistance programs should be preserved not only for the funds that they provide, but also because they allow essential strong and ongoing social services, counseling, housing, support mechanisms, and other help to the disabled individual.
What this allows for is that the special needs of the individual can be met with such things as: advanced medical care, special caregiver services, education, and even entertainment. Any of these things would qualify under a properly drafted Special Needs Trust. In addition, with a Special Needs Trust, you can have a trust that is set up by a third party; for example, a grandparent who has a disabled grandchild. In that circumstance, the grandparent sets up the trust, puts the money into the trust, and then the trustee administers the trust for the benefit of the disabled grandchild. The disabled individual continues to receive their public benefits, so there is no problem with the money being diverted or expended unnecessarily.
The good thing about the third-party trust is that after the death of the beneficiary – the disabled grandchild – the original person who set up the trust can designate in the trust where the money is to go if there is anything that remains in the trust.
If you are interested in any of these concepts, please give me a call here at Waller & Mitchell. Our phone number is 727-847-2288, and we would love to assist you with all of your needs.