What is a Special Needs Trust?
A Special Needs Trust is a legal document that is intended to benefit a disabled individual. A Special Needs Trust is frequently a separate document, but it can also be included in a trust or a will. The Special Needs Trust is intended to provide supplemental and extra care over and above that which the government already provides to the disabled individual. A Special Needs Trust must be irrevocable.
Who needs a Special Needs Trust?
A Special Needs Trust can be best for someone who lacks the mental capacity to handle their own financial affairs. A Special Needs Trust can be especially helpful for people with special needs (mental or physical) who would lose public benefits (such as Medicare, Medicaid-called Medi-Cal in California, or SSI) as a result of receiving an inheritance or receiving the proceeds from a lawsuit.
A Special Needs Trust can help protect the disabled person from being taken advantage of and losing the money that is intended for their benefit.
At Wolfberg & Wolfberg, P.C. we have extensive experience in working with Regional Centers in California. A Regional Center provides services and support to individuals with developmental disabilities under contract with the California Department of Developmental Services. Someone who receives services through a Regional Center may be an excellent candidate for a Special Needs Trust.
Protect Beneficiaries with Special Needs
A Special Needs Trust is intended to help a trust beneficiary continue receiving public benefits while at the same time being able to use assets in the Special Needs Trust to supplement those public benefits.
Many people with special needs receive public benefits in the form of medical benefits, vocational aid, and direct financial assistance. Much of the assistance provided to a person with special needs is “need based” and could be terminated if the person with special needs is determined to have the financial means to support himself or herself.
Inheritance Funded Special Needs Trust
If you are preparing your estate plan and you will be leaving some of your estate to a person who receives public benefits because of some mental or physical disabilities then you must think about setting up a Special Needs Trust to ensure the person with special needs will be able to use of property that is intended to be held for their benefit. At Wolfberg & Wolfberg, P.C. we have helped family members by preparing their estate planning documents to help relatives with special needs.
Litigation Funded Special Needs Trust
Special needs trusts are frequently used to receive an inheritance but they may also be helpful to protect lawsuit settlement proceeds. The proceeds from a personal injury judgment or settlement may be used to fund a special needs trust. Personal injury victims who have suffered debilitating injuries are able to establish a Special Needs Trust with money recovered as a result of their personal injury claim. A Special Needs Trust must be established prior to the settlement or resolution of the personal injury claim; the beneficiary is not permitted to establish the Special Needs Trust after receiving the settlement proceeds.
Who will be Responsible for Distributing Money in the Special Needs Trust?
The Special Needs Trust will be managed by someone called a Trustee. The Trustee may be a family member or a friend of the beneficiary and may even be appointed by a Court. Great care should be taken to select a trustee that you can trust to put the needs of the person with special needs before anyone else’s needs.
We are here to Help
If you believe that someone who will inherit from your estate should have a special needs trust then you must establish a special needs trust now. A special needs trust must be established before the person with special needs receives an inheritance or a personal injury settlement.