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Estate Planning Tips for Beneficiaries With Special Needs


When you or a loved one becomes disabled, financial concerns are amplified. It can be difficult to find time to plan finances, manage businesses, and pay bills. Matters are made even more complicated when people want to leave large sums of money to beneficiaries with special needs, because it could affect their government benefits, like disability or Medicaid. Planning your estate far in advance is highly recommended, as incorporating disabilities into your documents takes careful consideration. However, there are easy ways to make estate planning a priority so your loved one is well taken care of after you’ve passed. 

  1. Creating a lifetime Supplemental Needs Trust: This is a best of both worlds situation for families. An SNT is a specific trust that family members can contribute or leave inheritances to while maintaining the beneficiary’s eligibility for government programs. Unlike a will, an SNT won’t require court intervention. However, money isn’t everything when it comes to special needs. The SNT allows individuals to help pay for goods and services that serve in the best interest of the beneficiary. When setting up an SNT, these are some main points to consider:
    • Not underfunding the trust, or else the beneficiary won’t have enough to cover services like special care homes
    • Not overfunding the trust, or else the beneficiary could be disqualified from government assistance.
    • Making sure the beneficiary isn’t the recipient of any large gifts or inheritances in their individual names from other family members, which could also jeopardize their chances of special assistance.
  2. Providing guidance and a letter of intent: In many cases, people with special needs won’t have the capacity to advocate for their care. Writing a letter of intent will help inform caretakers, guardians, and trustees about the abilities of their loved one. It’s also a great way to outline any specific care directions, notes about the beneficiary’s routine, triggers, likes, and dislikes. You should also include directions about how to best utilize the SNT for distributions.
  3. Pick the right trustee: Like any case, your trustee should be someone with whom you have complete faith to carry out your last wishes. In terms of special care needs, however, the trustee should have an understanding of what services the beneficiary will need and how to best advocate for them. You will need someone highly organized with the capability of dealing with a myriad of different assets. For example, you will want your trustee to understand how to hire a great caretaker, find the right service providers, handle lawyers, and manage the beneficiary’s finances.
  4. Consider an Exempt Trust: This trust will protect any assets your beneficiary received from inheritances, benefits, or prior work. There are also ABLE accounts to consider. An estate planning attorney will be able to help you figure out what belongs in an exempt trust, and what type of trust will best suit your needs.

Picking the Right Lawyer

If you have any questions or concerns about picking the right trusts to protect your beneficiary, call the experienced estate planning attorneys at Legacy Protection Lawyers, LLP today. With decades of combined experience, the help you need is only a phone call or email away. Call our St. Petersburg offices at 727-471-5868 to get started right away.


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