If you have a child with special needs, you may worry about his or her care after your death. While you may use your estate plan to leave assets to your son or daughter, doing so may render him or her ineligible for vital needs-based government benefits.
To ensure your disabled child continues to be eligible for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income or other government programs, you may want to consider forming a special needs trust. Rather than transferring assets to your son or daughter, this type of trust holds ownership of them for your child’s benefit.
Limited use of trust disbursements
When your child applies for government assistance, he or she must meet strict income guidelines. Usually, disbursements from a special needs trust do not count as income for purposes of obtaining needs-based benefits. Still, your child must be careful not to use funds from the trust to pay the same expenses government programs cover.
While using money from a special needs trust to pay for housing, utilities and basic medical care is probably off limits, your son or daughter likely has many supplemental expenses the trust may cover. These may include the following:
- Out-of-pocket medical care or copays
- Travel, recreational or hobby expenses
- Educational or business costs
Some peace of mind
A special needs trust may also give you some peace of mind. Specifically, when you form the trust, you designate a skilled trustee to manage it. This individual collaborates with your disabled child’s care team, ensuring your son or daughter has what he or she needs to thrive even after your death.