A Special Needs Trust is an irrevocable trust that is set up to provide for certain needs of a disabled person. The trust may supplement the person's needs but may not duplicate those needs provided by governmental disability programs such as SSI and Medicaid.
Many families struggle daily with the demands of caring for a family member with health or developmental challenges. Whether it is autism, Parkinson's, cerebral palsy, birth defects or some other debilitating condition, the challenges can be immense. Perhaps one of the more challenging aspects which these families face is making sure that resources are available to provide medical and other necessary benefits over the course of the family member's lifetime. Often these families can only turn to governmental programs such as SSI and Medicaid to meet the overwhelming demands. For example, take the situation where a child, age 6, suffers from autism. Depending on the circumstances, the family may only be able to get medical coverage through Medicaid. The child could live many, many years and need benefits during that time.
Where many families fail to prepare is in the event the parents or other family members die and leave inheritance monies to the child. That inheritance could jeopardize the child continuing to get benefits. Loss of those governmental benefits could have an enormous impact. Instead, families with children or other family members on these governmental programs should set up a Special Needs Trust for the child. If this is done correctly, the inheritance monies can go into the SNT and can be available to provide for the child over his or her lifetime. So long as the SNT does not duplicate governmental benefits and otherwise complies with the limitations set forth by the applicable governmental program, then the benefits will continue uninterrupted. However, an SNT is a complicated planning document which should be prepared by an attorney skilled and experienced in drafting these kinds of trusts.