Estate Planning for Families with Special Needs Children - Part One

Who Needs Special Needs Planning?

Any family member or loved one with disabilities or special needs who relies (or may come to rely) on certain needs-based government benefits [e.g. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid].

It is important to make the distinction here between “needs-based” government benefits and other government benefits. A client who is not receiving needs-based government benefits, or whose loved ones are not eligible and are not likely to become eligible to receive needs-based benefits, may not require the same type of planning as someone who does require needs-based benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare are examples of non-needs based government benefits.

Whose money is it?

When planning for a family with special needs children, one of the first determinations to be made is whose money/property we are trying to protect. There are a couple of common scenarios that come up regularly which I will use to illustrate the difference –

  1. You are the parent or grandparent wants to use their assets to provide for a special needs child, after their death, without making the child ineligible for needs-based benefits;
  2. You receive a substantial sum of money from some outside source (e.g. inheritance, lawsuit settlement, etc.) and want to ensure you do not lose your government benefits.

The main difference between these two scenarios for our purposes is that in Scenario 1 it is the parent or grandparent whose money is at issue and in Scenario 2 it is the person with special needs’ money at stake. The reason why this matters is because the type of planning is different for each case.

If you have a child or grandchild with special needs, or you are currently receiving needs-based benefits and have received a large sum of money, please contact us to discuss how we may be of assistance. We can be reached at (203) 651-5521.