As a comprehensive settlement planner, I frequently work with parents of children with special needs. Many of those children were injured during birth and are about to receive a settlement. Though that means a big lump sum of money for their child’s medical care and other injury-related expenses, parents still tend to instinctively worry about the future. In fact, a 2011 study found that the greatest concern for parents of children with special needs is financial well-being.
With or without an incoming settlement, it can take a tremendous effort for a family to provide for a child with special needs. The family may need to rely on Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and other government benefits to pay for medications and equipment to support the child. Establishing a special needs trust can protect the family from disqualification of these benefits and ensure the child’s long-term needs are protected.
What is a Special Needs Trust?
A special needs trust, sometimes referred to as a supplemental needs trust, allows a disabled individual under age 65 to have access to real estate, finances, and other property while protecting their eligibility for government benefits. The trust can be set up privately or by court order. In either scenario, a trustee must be appointed to administer the trust.
What Can a Special Needs Trust Cover?
Special needs trusts are not designed to provide everyday support. They are instead meant to cover needs that are not be covered by government benefits. These expenses may include education, counseling, recreation, vehicles, clothing, shelter, and more. For a full list, click here.
For the families of catastrophically injured children, this option can provide the assurance that long-term benefits will be accessible, including in-home nursing, attendant care, and/or facility care.
How to Establish a Special Needs Trust
There are many moving parts that go into creating a special needs trust. Four major steps are involved:
- Identify a comprehensive settlement planner. Great settlement planners know the ins and outs of trusts. They can answer questions along the way and help guide parents through each step of the process.
- Select a trust attorney. As most states have their own laws governing Medicaid, it is important to choose a trust attorney with experience in adhering to the legal regulations associated with special needs trusts.
- Establish a fiduciary relationship and vet potential trustees. Selecting a trustee can be a difficult task. Whether a family member, friend, or corporate trustee is chosen, it is important that he or she understands the responsibility that comes with serving as a trustee and will act in the best interests of the beneficiary.
- Strategize appropriate funding options. Funding options vary from person to person. Your settlement planner will be able to advise you through the funding process.
Parents must weigh the potential support their child will need after they are gone. A special needs trust can be a valuable tool for providing lifelong financial security.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Bair is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant. He helps families develop strategies to provide lifelong financial support for children with disabilities, catastrophic injuries, special needs, and congenital abnormalities. Read more about John’s work and his firm, Milestone Consulting, at http://milestoneseventh.com/.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).