Protecting Special Needs Children and Grandchildren with Trusts

Protecting Special Needs Children and Grandchildren with Trusts

If I had a dollar for every parent or grandparent who thinks that leaving a disabled child’s inheritance to a sibling or other loved one who will “take care of” the disabled child is a good idea, I’d be wealthy. That’s actually the worst thing to do.

What if the loved one dies or becomes disabled? What if they get sued or divorced? Now that Americans are living longer than they did in years past, including those with disabilities, this is an especially important subject.

Planning by parents and grandparents can make all the difference in the life of an adult child with a disability, as well as that of his or her siblings who may be left with the responsibility for caretaking (on top of their own careers and caring for their own families).

Supplemental needs trusts (also known as “special needs” trusts) are an important component of planning for a disabled child, even when the child is an adult. These trusts allow a disabled beneficiary to receive inheritances, gifts, lawsuit settlements, or other funds and yet not lose her eligibility for certain government programs like Medicaid.

As their name implies, supplemental needs trusts are designed not to provide basic support, but instead to pay for comforts and luxuries that could not be paid for by public assistance funds. These trusts typically pay for things like education, recreation, counseling, and medical attention beyond the simple necessities of life.

So do your loved ones a favor, speak with an Elder Law Attorney about creating a Supplemental Needs Trust. Contact our office with any questions you may have.

Do You Know How to Preserve Public Benefits for a Loved One with Autism?

Do You Know How to Preserve Public Benefits for a Loved One with Autism?

Ensuring your loved one with autism’s elder care needs are provided for in the event you are no longer here, is a critical planning step. You need to create the special needs planning that will ensure he or she is not only protected but will not lose access to vitally important government benefits. For programs such as Florida Medicaid, there are strict income and asset requirements that must be adhered to in order to remain qualified.


We work with Florida seniors and their loved ones on these very issues every day.  It is important for you to put special needs planning in place to ensure that your autistic loved one can be taken care of when you are no longer able to assume the responsibility. Without special needs planning in place, your loved one could lose the benefits he or she relies on.


If you are creating a long-term care plan for someone with autism, let us share a few questions you can ask.


1. Will I still be the disabled person’s decision maker once he or she becomes an adult?

No. Just like any other adult, people with autism become legal adults when they reach the age of majority. Even someone will severe developmental, cognitive and/or mental health disabilities is able to make legal decisions at this age.


2. Should I become the guardian of my child with autism?

Yes. Guardianship of a developmentally disabled person, however, is different from a guardianship that is needed for reasons of incapacity later in life.


3. What should I do first?

Start by assessing which areas of your child’s life he or she can maintain control over. This may include medical, educational, financial or vocational decisions. The key is that he or she remain safe at all times and not be a danger to himself, herself or others. What your child cannot handle independently could be put under your authority through the Florida guardian advocacy process.


4. Is an attorney necessary for this process?

An attorney is extremely helpful during this process although you can represent yourself pro se. Your attorney will have specific experience with these matters and the challenges you face. He or she can help answer questions and provide guidance on how to navigate this legal landscape.


5. Do I name another guardian in case something happens to me?

Speak with your attorney about this as soon as possible. You do want to plan ahead for when you could pass away or no longer be able to handle the responsibility of caring for your loved one with special needs.


6. Are there any government assistance benefits that can help my loved one in the future?

Yes. We help seniors and their loved ones gain access to programs such as Florida Medicaid. Both Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two examples of government assistance.


7. Is there another way to ensure my loved one is financially stable?

A special needs trust can be established through which you can leave money to your disabled loved one. This type of trusts protects the money of a third-party so the disabled individual may still qualify for government benefits. Depending on where the funds for the trust originate from, there are different special needs trust available. Your attorney will help you determine which trust is right for you.


Creating a plan for a loved one with autism is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure his or her future. Remember, ensuring continued access to Florida Medicaid and other government programs is critical. Do not hesitate to schedule a meeting with a member of our legal team to discuss this further!