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Special Needs Trusts for Disabled Family Members

Millions of Americans have disabled family members. The cause may be Down's Syndrome, schizophrenia, cerebral palsy, autism, or countless other physical or mental illnesses.

Even if you don't have a disabled family member, you know many individuals who do. Mental and physical problems do not discriminate against particular racial or socio-economic groups.

If you have a child, in particular, who is disabled, or if you know someone who does, you simply must know about Special Needs Trusts. These trusts are designed to hold assets for the benefit of an individual who is receiving public benefits and to help that person without disturbing eligibility.

If the person is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medi-Cal, they would continue to do so. If they are in subsidized housing, they would continue to live there.

Why use the Special Needs Trust for a disabled individual?

  1. The disabled beneficiary will keep his/her income (SSI) and health care (Medi-Cal) benefits.
  2. Money in the trust can be used to pay for items and services not covered by public benefits
  3. Money in the trust can be used to pay for a doctor who will not accept Medi-Cal.
  4. Parents control where trust assets go after the child is deceased.

The only alternatives to the Special Needs Trust are (1) leaving nothing to the child; or (2) leaving money in trust that does not have these restrictions. This latter course of action will cause the loss of public benefits. After the assets are consumed, the child will go back on public benefits. In planning these trusts, there are tax and family issues to address. We have decades of experience in dealing with these issues. Special Needs Trusts drafted by Gilfix & La Poll Associates LLP are consistently effective and withstand scrutiny by public benefits programs.

Note: This article provides information, it does not constitute legal advice. 

Gilfix & La Poll Associates LLP attorneys practice elder law and estate planning and are available to answer any questions about Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney for asset management, Advance Health Care Directives, and any other appropriate planning options.