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Special Needs Trusts

Providing for a family member with special needs can be a very rewarding role. Often, those with special needs rely on their caregivers to help them navigate life. Have you thought about whom they might rely on when you can no longer provide the same level of care for them?

If your family member with special needs is your child, you may have written in your Will that they will receive your money and other assets, and you may have planned for them to inherit your home, especially if that home is outfitted for special assistance. But it is important to know that giving them these assets through your Will may prevent them from qualifying for SSI or other government funded programs such as Medicaid, MediCare, or MaineCare.

You are probably aware that these government-funded benefits are designed only to provide for basic living needs such as food, housing, and clothing. These basic necessities will likely not provide your loved one with the comforts and lifestyle that you were able to provide for them as part of your caregiving. So how can you make sure that their basic needs are met and that they have spending money to go to the movies or participate in activities?

Congress allows assets to be held in a Special Needs Trust (also called a Supplemental Needs Trust, or SNT) as long as certain legal requirements are met. This type of trust allows you to set aside assets (money or property, such as a house) for your loved one without risking the loss of government benefit eligibility.

SNTs require careful drafting in order to be legally compliant and should always be done with the help of an attorney. If you have a family member that you’d like to protect through Special Needs Trust planning, we’d be happy to discuss how we can help.