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Planning ahead for your special needs child

As the parent of a special needs child, you need all the financial help you can get. The federal government and the State of Colorado offer a variety of assistance programs and benefits, but who will provide these and other benefits for your child after you are gone?

The answer could be you. Not literally, of course, but by means of the special needs trust you establish for the benefit of your child, not only now, but throughout his or her lifetime. All it takes is a little forethought and help from a lawyer to draft the proper document

Trust assets

Once you establish a special needs trust, you can put whatever assets you wish into it, including the following:

  • Your child’s Supplemental Security Income and/or Medicaid monies
  • Any money or assets he or she inherits
  • Any settlement money he or she receives from a lawsuit
  • Other assets and/or income-producing properties

Trustee and other considerations

You may wish to name yourself as trustee of your child’s special needs trust so you can continue to manage and distribute its assets and income for his or her benefit. Be sure to name a successor trustee, however, so that the trust will continue to operate smoothly should you become incapacitated and after you die. Also, be sure to name the person, agency or facility that you want to care for your child at your incapacity and/or death.

Remember, your child does not own the trust assets. The trust does. Consequently, he or she remains eligible for the benefits he or she currently receives, as well as others that may become available in the future. It is a good idea to list any subsidies that he or she currently receives in the trust document, such as for housing, education, vocational training, employment, etc.

Trust advantages

The main advantage of a special needs trust is that it remains in effect throughout your child’s lifetime. This means that he or she will always receive necessary help and care, including:

  • Provision of his or her basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, etc.
  • Appropriate medical and dental care
  • A monthly allowance to spend as he or she wishes, assuming he or she has the ability to do so
  • Vacations, recreational activities and other things that make life enjoyable

While your child’s special needs trust obviously can provide him or her the highest possible quality of life, you also benefit from establishing such a trust. You will have peace of mind knowing that your child will always have what he or she needs even when you are no longer able to provide care.

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