October is National Special Needs Law Month

I prepared a special needs trust for a North Attleborough couple whose adult daughter was born with severe disabilities, and was unable to work or support herself financially. The couple were in their seventies, and their only other child was married and financially secure. They worried constantly about what would happen to their daughter with special needs when they died, whether she would run out of money during her lifetime, and what would become of her if something ever happened to her sister.

By setting up the special needs trust, they now have peace of mind.

October: Special Needs Law Month

At Deschene Law Office, we are gearing up for National Special Needs Law Month, in which we pay special attention to the growing need for advance planning by special needs individuals and their families who live in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. So, many of my clients ask, what is special needs law, and what do you need to know about the legal rights of your loved one with special needs?

Special Needs Law attorneys assist families in financing long-term care, and provide them with the legal tools for financial management, such as powers of attorneys and trusts. They also help them understand Medicare and Medicaid eligibility rules, special needs trusts, and a student s right to an independent educational plan, housing options, and other issues.

Special Needs Law attorneys throughout the country are observing National Special Needs Law Month by providing public seminars, law clinics, and other activities that will educate the public.

SNT Education Event on October 23

To that end, Deschene Law Office will participate in and promote National Special Needs Law Month in several ways. First, we will offer a Free Educational Forum, Tuesday, October 23 at Fisher College, Elm Street, in North Attleborough on Using Special Needs Trusts: Protecting the Future Financial Security of a Family Member with Special Needs . To register for this event, please send us an email1, and write Save me a seat in the comment box.

Attendees will receive a free brochure Wills, Trusts and Planning for those with Special Needs.

Second, our blog posts this month will focus primarily on various aspects of special needs planning. Today, I will give a general overview of a special needs trust, what it is, and how it can benefit you and your family.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

If you live in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, and have responsibility for a loved one with a physical or mental disability, and that person will require long-term medical and other support, you want to make sure that your estate plan (whether a will or a living trust) provides for him or her after you die. Let s say you have an adult son James who is mentally disabled, and so is unable to manage his own money or property.

Ben receives SSI disability. You do not want to leave money or property to James directly, if that will disqualify him from receiving the government assistance that he needs. Instead, you might consider setting up what is called a special needs trust.

When you create a special needs trust for James, you transfer some of your property into the trust, appoint someone as its trustee, and name James as the beneficiary.

The money you put in the special needs trust will not be counted when the government calculates whether James remains eligible to receive government assistance (like Social Security or Medicaid). This is because James himself has no control over the money in the trust or how it is spent, and he can never revoke the trust or take the money out. The only person who can make these decisions is the trustee.

The trust itself describes in some detail what types of expenses the trustee can pay from the trust fund.

Of course, when choosing a trustee for a special needs trust, you should carefully consider that the trustee should like and get along with James, understand and appreciate the nature of his special needs, and be able to take on what will be a long-term fiduciary commitment. In many cases, for example, parents may choose one of their other children to act as trustee. You can also draft a Letter of Intent, describing in detail your wishes about how your loved one will be treated.

In future blog posts, we will continue discussing aspects of special needs law, and how they affect your family.

If you are a Massachusetts (Attleboro, North Attleborough, Norton, Mansfield, Plainville, Foxboro, Wrentham, Seekonk, Rehoboth) or Rhode Island (Providence, Pawtucket) resident who has a loved one with a disability, discuss the situation with your lawyer when you are doing an estate plan.

As I tell all my clients, you will be giving yourself an invaluable gift: the peace of mind of knowing that your loved one will receive proper and adequate care in the future.

Rob Deschene, a resident of North Attleborough, practices Elder and Special Needs Law and focuses his practice on Elder Law issues involving communities and families with disabled individuals.

Deschene is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and of the both the Massachusetts and Rhode Island State Bar Associations.?

References

  1. ^ Contact Us (deschenelaw.com)

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