Throughout April, the world has been lighting up blue in recognition of World Autism Month. Universally-recognized landmarks across the globe, such as The White House, the Empire State Building, and Niagara Falls, have lit up blue in support of Autism awareness and the Light It Up Blue campaign. As the fastest-growing developmental disorder in America continues to affect every 1 in 68 children, this wide-spread unity supports millions of families worldwide.
With Autism costing a family an annual average of $60,000, every penny is significant in the lifetime care of affected individuals. One of the best ways to ensure that loved ones with any type of special need are supported with all of their necessary care is to set up a Special Needs Trust (SNT). SNTs serve to safeguard certain assets needed to care for individuals with special needs and can be set up before or after becoming eligible for government benefit programs, depending on the individual’s facts and circumstances.
The Probate Pro is proud to support our disabled clients with not only special needs planning, but trustee and trust administration services of special needs trusts as well. With compassion and experience guiding them, our attorneys have become experts at understanding the circumstances of each affected person, their caregivers, and their family, and using that understanding to develop a special needs trust that caters to their individual needs and situation.
SNT Q and A with Adrienne Darr
As one of The Probate Pro’s Managing Attorneys, Adrienne specializes specifically in the preparation and administration of special needs trusts and conservatorship estates. Below, Adrienne offers her answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by her clients.
Q: What factors determine whether an adult is “disabled”?
A: An individual who is age 18 or older and who has a medically determinable physical or cognitive impairment, including emotional and learning disorders, may be considered disabled. Typically, the impairment(s) result in:
- The inability to perform any substantial, gainful activity
- Impairments lasting for a continuous period, if not less than 12 months
Q: Why should a disabled person have an SNT?
A: If the disabled person receives benefits from a government program, such as SSI or Medicaid, then their eligibility is need-based. This means that the disabled person’s finances and other life-sustaining resources must be limited in order to be considered for program benefits.
If the disabled person has more resources than the program’s maximum allows, or if the disabled person is receiving a settlement as a result of their injury or any other lawsuit, a special needs trust is an easy and efficient way to protect the resources they already have while still maintaining eligibility for other government programs.
Q: What if the disabled person is receiving an inheritance?
A: An SNT may also be set up for a disabled person to inherit funds from a family member. This ensures that the disabled person will have sufficient funds for their care once their caregiver, such as a parent or sibling, has passed away.
Q: Who can establish a special needs trust for a disabled person?
A: A special needs trust must be set up by a parent, grandparent, or guardian of the disabled person, or the disabled person themselves. It can also be established by a probate court.
Q: Who can be the trustee of a special needs trust?
A: The trustee can be any trusted adult age 18 or older, including a family member, a close friend, or even a trusted attorney. Remember, these funds are for the sole benefit of the trust’s beneficiary (the disabled person), so the trustee must be someone trustworthy, and who has the disabled person’s best interests at the forefront of their decisions regarding the funds. The disabled person cannot be the trustee of their own SNT.
Q: When can a special needs trust be established?
A: With limited exceptions, a Special Needs Trust must be established before a disabled person turns 65.
Q: How is a special needs trust established?
A: A special needs trust must be irrevocable, which means that it cannot be changed or altered after it is signed. Sometimes, but not always, court approval is required or recommended prior to establishing the trust.
Q: What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?
A: While both government programs offer cash benefits to people with disabilities, the eligibility requirements for vary for each program. FindLaw.com offers helpful yet brief explanations of the eligibility and benefits for each program. SSDI, like Medicare, is not a means tested government program, meaning that an SNT is not required to protect a disabled person’s assets.
Secure a Safe Future
If you have a loved one affected by any type of special need or disability, please contact The Probate Pro to secure a safe and comfortable future for your loved one and your family. Our attorneys specializing in special needs planning can be reached at 248.399.3300 or Darren@TheProbatePro.com.
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