Special Needs Planning & Your Estate

March 8, 2011

An important aspect of estate planning considers the needs of beneficiares and how best to meet those needs. If you have a beneficiary with a disability it is crtitical to understand the public benefits that they are receiving, or may be eligible to receive, and how a distribution from your estate may affect those benefits. An outright distribution from your estate to such a beneficiary could disqualify him or her for public benefits, including medical benefits, which could be devastating. Medicaid benefits can provide for very costly long-term medical care and they're only available to those who do not have the resources to pay for them out of pocket.
A third-party special needs trust will provide for the special needs of a disabled beneficiary while preserving eligibility for public benefits, including Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. The language of a Special Needs Trust must be extremely precise so as not to make the assets in the trust directly available to the beneficiary. Generally, the trust resources can only be used for what are considered to be "supplemental needs" under Medicaid rules. A third-party special needs trust may be revocable and you can include a secondary beneficiary to receive distribution of the remaining assets after the primary beneficiary passes away.
By creating a Special Needs Trust for your disabled beneficiary you can ensure that he or she receives all the benefits of your estate without jeopardizing his or her eligibtility for public benefits. Special-needs planning is a very sensitive matter that requires the highly technical expertise of an estate planning attorney knowledgeable in the complex area of disability planning.

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