If you have ever cared for a disabled individual, you are aware of all that is required to maintain proper care for them, including not only medical needs, but personal needs as well. You may also be familiar with the need-based government assistance programs that are available, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both of these programs determine eligibility based on income and resources. For instance, in order to satisfy the SSI resource requirements, your assets, with exception of those that are exempt, must be valued at less than $2,000 if you are single, $3,000 if you are married. It is critical that you establish an estate plan that addresses the future needs of a disabled love one and that protects that person’s eligibility for government benefits. A Special Needs Trust is one type of estate planning tool available to you.
Start with a comprehensive plan.
When designing a plan for the future needs of your disabled loved one, there are many important issues to consider. Following are just three: (1) who will be responsible for caring for that person; (2) how will assets be made available for your loved one without jeopardizing eligibility for government benefits; and (3) how do you ensure that your loved one will be cared for properly. It is best to address these important issues now, while you still can.
The Special Needs Trust is usually an essential component in your comprehensive plan. Like other estate planning tools, Special Needs Trusts are very complex. Not only are there many income tax considerations, these trusts are also subject to scrutiny by the Social Security Administration, Medicaid and other state or local benefit programs, each of which may have intricate rules that must be satisfied. It is extremely important that you consult with an estate planning attorney who is competent to handle all the issues involved.
Always consider and include instructions and provisions for personal care and the preferences of your loved one, when planning for their care. The future caregiver may not know the personal preferences of your loved one. You can provide that information in the form of a “Memorandum of Intent”, which should then be included with your portfolio containing your living trust and other estate planning documents. This will provide peace of mind knowing that the needs and desires of your loved one will still be met, even after you are gone. Great care should be used when selecting a qualified Reno estate planning attorney to help create an estate plan that involves a beneficiary with special needs.