Naples Estate Planning Lawyers with Particular Experience in Special Needs Planning
When you have a loved one with special needs, you want to give him or her every possible opportunity in life. This is true not only during your lifetime, but also after your death. While traditional estate planning and asset protection strategies offer some potential solutions, in certain circumstances these solutions can also have some undesirable consequences.
This is principally an issue with regard to government benefit eligibility. Benefit programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are needs-based programs. As a result, if you use the wrong mechanism to provide your loved one with financial resources (i.e. providing a substantial direct lifetime gift or bequest in your will), this can result in loss of program eligibility. However, there are estate planning tools that are specifically designed to address this issue; and at Woods, Weidenmiller, Michetti & Rudnick, PLLC, we can help you take full advantage of these tools without compromising other aspects of your overall estate plan or asset protection strategy.
Special Tools for Special Needs Planning
The following estate planning tools are designed to allow families to maintain eligibility for needs-based government benefit programs while also providing long-term financial stability and enhanced quality of life for children and adults with special needs:
First-Party Special Needs Trust
A first-party special needs trust (or “supplemental needs trust”) is a federally-authorized trust that can be used to provide supplemental financial resources to an individual who would lose government program eligibility if he or she were to otherwise own a large financial estate. The “first-party” label refers to the fact that the assets used to fund the trust come from the disabled beneficiary. These assets could consist of the beneficiary’s earnings and savings over his or her lifetime (in the case of an adult with special needs), or a gift received through inheritance.
First-party special needs trusts are irrevocable; and, at the beneficiary’s death, any assets remaining in the trust must be used to repay government benefits received during the beneficiary’s lifetime. If a surplus remains after this repayment, then the remainder of the trust assets will be administered or distributed according to the terms of the trust.
Third-Party Special Needs Trust
A third-party special needs trust is more similar to the types of trusts used for other estate planning purposes. Instead of being funded with the beneficiary’s assets, a third-party special needs trust is funded with assets from the beneficiary’s parents, grandparents, children, other loved ones or the proceeds of a life insurance policy. Since the “grantor’s” gift is placed into a trust rather than being deposited into the beneficiary’s account directly, it does not affect the beneficiary’s needs-based eligibility, and the repayment provisions for first-party special needs trusts do not apply.
Depending upon your family’s unique circumstances, you may have other options as well. To learn more, we invite you to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced special needs planning attorneys.
Schedule a Confidential Initial Consultation
If you have a child or adult loved one with special needs and would like more information about the planning options you have available, please contact us to speak with one of our attorneys. To schedule an appointment at your convenience, call our Naples, FL law offices at (239) 325-4070 or inquire online today.