Unfortunately, many parents of children with special needs wait until their child turns 18 to consider creating a special needs trust. Sometimes, they even wait until their child eventually needs government benefits like SSI or Medicaid. However, special needs trusts do a lot more than just protect the beneficiary’s access to government benefits and should be created as soon as possible. Below are a few reasons why.
A Special Needs Trust Secures the Child’s Future
The best reason for creating a special needs trust before your child turns 18 is the same reason that parents of children without special needs should have an estate plan – to ensure the stability and security of their family members if something unexpected happens to them. Creating a special needs trust before a child needs it ensures that the trust will be there during all of life’s transitions. If a parent of a child with disabilities dies unexpectedly and a special needs trust is not established, the direct inheritance could make them immediately ineligible for any government assistance. The Trust would also allow someone else, called a Successor Trustee, to immediately step in and start helping your child financially without having to wait for the courts to get involved.
They can receive gifts from parents or grandparents
Parents may decide to establish a special needs trust for their minor child so that the grandparents and other relatives can fund it with gifts. Also, older relatives who are planning on leaving an inheritance for the child with special needs can bequest the funds directly to the trust. Having a special needs trust guarantees that if the child needs government benefits in the future, he or she will not have large amounts of money in their name that could negatively impact eligibility.
Life insurance benefits can be protected
One way that parents sometimes ensure that their child will have money for future care is to purchase a life insurance policy where the payout goes into the child’s special needs trust. The earlier the parents start funding the life insurance policy, the bigger the financial benefit for their child with special needs. This funding can start well before a child turns 18, so it makes sense to create a special needs trust to hold the proceeds even if the child is not yet receiving government benefits.
You can create a care management plan
Special needs trusts can provide a care management plan as well as a structure for family involvement in the daily life of the person with special needs. In addition, professional trustees can serve as resources for families that are looking for additional care options for their child.
Creating your child’s special needs trust and keeping it updated can be a very effective planning strategy for reasons that go way beyond preserving government benefits. Even if the trust is unfunded during the parent’s lives, having it can create a solid, stable foundation for the child if it is needed. If you have not yet created a special needs trust for your child, call our Rochester, New York office at (585) 232-5300 or our Newark, New York office at (315) 331-3813 to set up a planning session today.