Providing for Special Needs Kids–Using Special Needs Trusts

As the mom or dad of a special needs child, your heart and hands are already full. With a Special Needs Trust, your child continues receiving government benefits and enjoys an enhanced life–with the trust funds paying for the extras including:

  • Paying you for providing care to your child
  • Paying for fun trips and activities for your child
  • Setting aside savings for your child’s future needs

To schedule an appointment with Travis Weaver, attorney, or Rick Weaver, attorney, about creating a Special Needs Trust, call 817-638-9016. To learn more about this essential legal tool, check out our extensive Q & A below: 

Why is a Special Needs Trust essential?

If you leave money or property directly to your special needs child, either in a will or through intestacy (dying without a will), the inheritance your child receives will endanger his or her ability to receive benefits under government programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

A Special Needs Trust, also known as a Supplemental Needs Trust, is created to hold cash or property for your special needs child. Funds from the trust can be used to help your special needs child–yet still allow the child to receive government benefits like Medicaid or SSI. As described earlier, if the child owns these assets outright, he or she may not qualify for government benefits. 

Funds from the Special Needs Trust may also be used to pay yourself and other family members for caregiving duties. This helps make up for a parent’s lost income. Since many special needs children require around-the-clock care, making it impossible for a parent to hold a job, this benefit may help relieve financial stress and ensure your child receives the best possible care–from you.  

What does my special needs child gain with a Special Needs Trust? 

A properly drafted and executed Special Needs Trust shelters assets for a special needs child or other disabled person, while allowing the child to benefit from government programs offering support to disabled individuals. 

Your special needs child may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD), Medicare and Medicaid. Consider this brief summary about qualifying for these programs:

  • SSI is a needs-based program available if certain income and resource limitations are met.
  • In most states including Texas, people receiving SSI are automatically entitled to Medicaid.
  • To qualify for SSI and Medicaid, a single person must own less than $2,000 of countable assets.
  • Those with countable assets greater than $2,000 can lose their eligibility for benefits. 

Won’t any trust work? Unfortunately, no. 

Here’s why — support trusts (most common trusts are support trusts), which direct that funds be used for the health, welfare, and support of a beneficiary like a special needs child, will usually disqualify a the child from receiving government benefits. This is because the assets in a support trust are counted as the child’s resources.

A Special Needs Trust allows a parent (the trustee) to use trust funds to add to, not replace, the government benefits for which your special needs child qualifies.

Here’s how it works: 

  • To maintain eligibility for needs-based support, your special needs child (the beneficiary) cannot have control over the assets in the Special Needs Trust.
  • Your special needs child cannot manage the assets, have the right to demand distributions of income or property from the trust, name the Trustee or change the terms of the Special Needs Trust.
  • The use of the Special Needs Trust’s assets for the benefit of a special needs child is determined by the parent (Trustee).
  • Because your special needs child (the beneficiary) does not have a claim to the assets in the trust, this means the trust assets are not countable resources and do not affect the special needs child’s eligibility for benefits.
  • As a result, the special needs child continues receiving government benefits, while still enjoying the benefits of the funds or property in the trust–for things like travel, entertainment, and other  supplemental needs that may greatly enhance your child’s quality of life. 

Who can serve as a trustee of a Special Needs Trust? 

  • The Trustee can be a parent, family member, friend, or private professional trustee.
  • In the case of a self-settled special needs trust, the person making the gift to create the trust can also serve as trustee. A self-settled special needs trust requires a payback provision for any governmental benefits received. All other special needs trusts do not require such payback provisions. 

Want to schedule an appointment to talk with us about setting up a special needs trust? Call Travis Weaver, attorney, or Rick Weaver, attorney, today at 817.638.9016.