LegalJourney Blog

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Special Needs Trusts Can Help Ensure Special People Are Well Taken Care Of

Anyone who takes care of a relative with special needs has probably laid awake at night worrying about what will become of their loved one after they are gone. It’s hard not to worry, but at the same time you have to remember that worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair - it gives you something to do, but it never gets you anywhere. If you really want to put your mind at ease, and put your worries to rest, it is time to talk to an attorney about setting up a special needs trust to benefit your loved one after you are gone.

As I’m sure you are aware, providing care for someone with special needs can get quite expensive, and most people with special needs rely on government support from programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. When you leave money to someone with special needs outright, that money must often be used up before SSI and Medicaid will kick any funds. Your loved one is then put into a position where they are only being supported by government programs. This is unfortunate because their quality of life is likely to suffer under this arrangement. While government programs provide basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, and medical care, they don’t provide enriching experiences or special things that let your loved one know someone cares about them.

A special needs trust is a special kind of trust that is designed to allow people with special needs to get the benefit of any funds left to them in addition to the benefits they get from government assistance programs.

The assets in a special needs trust can be used to provide your loved one with things that enhance their quality of life. For example, I have seen trust funds used to buy a trust beneficiary, who happened to be a huge football fan, tickets to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game as a special birthday treat. Trust funds can also be used to pay for practical things like special medical care or educational programs. 

It is important to note that one of the reasons the trust is able to preserve the beneficiary’s eligibility for benefits is that it is structured so that the funds cannot be distributed directly to the disabled beneficiary. Funds are instead managed by professionals, who then disburse money to third parties who provide goods and services for use and enjoyment by the disabled beneficiary.

Providing your loved one with a better quality of life while they are relying on government assistance is not unethical or fraudulent. In fact, both the federal government and the State of Florida have structured their laws to encourage families to tap into government resources, even when other resources are available, in order to provide a higher quality of life experience.

However, this private-public funding partnership is not automatic. If you want your loved one to have benefits beyond the basic necessities provided by funds left to them, working with an experienced attorney to set up a proper special needs trust is a necessity.

 


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Attorney Karnardo Garnett represents clients with their Estate Planning, Elder Law and Asset Protection needs throughout the Tampa Bay Area, serving all of the bay area, including but not limited to Tampa, Brandon, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Gibsonton, Riverview, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, Hillsborough County, and Pinellas County, FL



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