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Planning for those with Disabilities or Special Needs


In the past, families would disinherit disabled family members and leave assets to someone else who agreed to “take care” of them. If assets were left to a disabled beneficiary, it could disqualify them from the state or federal programs they are receiving. In 1993, Congress enacted new laws that entitled disabled individuals to derive the same estate planning benefits as non-disabled individuals without affecting their eligibility for state or federal benefits. The law created Special Needs Trusts (sometimes called “Supplemental Needs Trusts”), which enable you to leave any amount of money to a loved one who has special needs without affecting their eligibility for the state or federal benefits they receive.


The law further provides the trust proceeds must be used to provide amenities for the disabled individual he or she would not otherwise receive under the state and federal programs. Amenities can include trips, computers, power wheel chairs, prosthetics, or other comforts not generally provided by the government.


A Special Needs Trusts can be created by an individual with their own funds or be created by someone other than a disabled individual, typically a parent or relative.


There are different rights and restrictions to each of these trusts, but both ensure immediate qualification for federal and state benefits (i.e. Medi-Cal and SSI) and provide supplemental comforts to the disabled beneficiary they otherwise, most likely, would be unable to have.


 (1)When Do I Need Guardianship for my Special Needs Child?


As a parent of a special needs child, you are the child’s “natural guardian” and can make all decisions regarding the child. However, your rights as guardian do not allow you to have access or control of your child’s assets (i.e., proceeds from a lawsuit or gifts from a family member). In addition, when your child turns 18, you lose your rights as natural guardian to make health care and other life decisions for them.  To maintain these rights, you must commence a limited conservatorship proceeding in Court. To avoid losing your authority, you should contact a qualified attorney to begin a conservatorship proceeding at least six months prior to your child’s 18th birthday.  We are qualified to help.  

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