Author(s): Ann Stuursma, Tara Velting

When dealing with a special needs child or any person receiving government benefits such as SSI and Medicaid, there are additional considerations to keep in mind. For the individual receiving government benefits, the receipt of an inheritance or settlement award would disqualify him or her based on the asset test used to determine eligibility for government benefits.

An effectively designed supplemental needs trust (otherwise known as special needs trust, discretionary needs trust or supplemental benefit trust; hereinafter referred to as a special needs trust) can help ensure the quality of life and quality of care for an individual with special needs.

A special needs trust allows extra assets (from a family member or from a settlement) to be held in trust for the benefit of the disabled person. When properly drafted, funded and administered, a special needs trust can help to preserve and protect assets and government benefits and provide a network of community support for a person with special needs.

All too often, families do not include their special needs heirs and relatives in their wills and/or trusts. They know that ifthat special needs person receiving government funds comes into a large sum of money that will disqualify the person from receiving government funds. A properly structured Special Needs Trust can provide a sum of money available for the benefit of the special needs person while allowing that person to preserve his or her eligibility for government benefits.

As we think about those we love this month over Valentines Day, lets not forget those we love with special needs. We can help ensure a brighter future for them as well by properly considering them in our estate planning documents.

For more information, contact Ann Stuursma and Tara Velting.