Disability Law

Special Needs Planning for Individuals with Disabilities

When a loved one has a physical or cognitive disability, parents, grandparents and other family members often want to help the individual and to provide for their extraordinary needs. What many people do not realize is that often disabled individuals are eligible for and are receiving public assistance from Social Security and Medicaid and that these programs do not allow such assistance to continue if the individual has more than $2,000 in assets. For those who do realize this, they often jump to the incorrect conclusion that they will not be able to leave any money to provide for the care of their disabled loved one.

Planning for Beneficiaries with Disabilities

While we tend to think only of the elderly in estate planning, it's equally important to put plans in place to protect dependents should you become injured, or incapacitated. Dependents can be children, disabled or elderly family members, or unrelated persons for whom you are a guardian. A trust (whether created using a will or revocable trust) can protect assets to provide for your disabled beneficiaries for a lifetime. With proper planning you can leave your assets to a disabled individual, which will not affect their government benefits. This is generally known as a supplemental or special needs trust.

Special Needs Trusts are often used as an acceptable way to provide money for the care and support of a disabled loved one that WILL NOT affect the loved one's receipt of government benefits. Planning ahead, allows you to set money aside for your disabled loved one but preserve your rights to leave any balance remaining after your disabled loved one passes away to whomever you chose (other family members, charities, etc.) It is a powerful tool and a vast improvement over the days when attorneys' simply advised clients to disinherit the family member who needed their help and money the most (the disabled loved one).

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If, however, your disabled loved one has already received an inheritance or other gift, you may still be able to preserve these assets while maintaining eligibility for government benefits through the use of a Special Needs Trust or State Pooled Trust.

Finally, parents of children with disabilities are faced with the need to seek appointment as the child's legal guardian when he or she turns 18 and becomes an adult. Even though your 18 year old child likely does not have much in the way of assets, it is very important to apply to be both the Guardian of his person and of his estate. Oftentimes, parents are misled to believe that if the child has not assets the later is unnecessary. However, being appointed as Guardian of the Estate will be crucial when it comes time to apply for Social Security or Medicaid benefits for your child. Some Counties also require potential Guardians to submit to a criminal background check and to provide a credit report showing they are suitable to act as Guardian.

At Koeppl Law Offices, we understand the challenges families face in caring for loved ones with a disability and strive to simplify the legal processes involved in making sure they will continue to be cared for, even after you are gone.