There can be no doubt about the benefits of crafting a comprehensive estate plan, both in terms of fulfilling a California decedent’s final wishes and also providing for beneficiaries of their choosing. However, the task takes on even greater importance when a loved one has special needs. Fortunately, there are several key steps that can be taken to help ensure that such circumstances are fully addressed.
Establishing a secure foundation
Families that include an individual with special needs face an additional challenge when it comes to estate planning, in that the loved one at issue may be unable to be financially self-sufficient. While resources may well be available through Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income, those funds may be insufficient to provide for a special needs beneficiary’s full range of requirements.
Further, because eligibility for the aforementioned programs often comes with stringent limits on permitted assets and income, families looking to provide for their loved one’s future should embark on a series of critical tasks that include:
- Select team of family and advisors
- Determine amount of resources likely to be required over time
- Decide how financial goals will be met
- Put formal plans for special needs beneficiary in writing
- Conduct a periodic review of arrangements to adjust for changes in circumstances
How a special needs trust can help
One of the most effective tools available to help meet a loved one’s needs is the special needs trust. Using a vehicle of this sort can facilitate the provision of additional resources even if excess asset holdings would otherwise prevent the receipt of government benefits. Adding to the utility of such an instrument is the fact that there is no limit to the trust’s size, and as long as the resources contained within it are not used to pay for housing or food for the beneficiary, the income limits that would ordinarily apply to the disbursement of government aid will be rendered irrelevant.
Every parent of a special needs child deserves the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their loved one will be well taken care of when they are no longer around to help. Engaging in the types of strategic pre-planning described above can afford them precisely that.