Special Needs Planning //

Navigate Complex Law to Protect Your Loved Ones

When you have a loved one with a disability, the importance of comprehensive estate planning cannot be understated. The laws surrounding Special Needs Planning are complex and constantly changing. Our attorneys attend many hours of continuing education every year to stay informed about the latest developments in this niche area of the law.  Additionally, Kim and Brittany are both Certified as Specialists in the area of Elder Law (which includes Special Needs Planning) by both the Ohio State Bar Association and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. We also are passionate about volunteering our time for local organizations who service individuals with disabilities, such as the Disability Foundation and United Rehabilitation Services.

A Special Needs Trust can be used for a variety of life-enhancing expenditures without compromising your loved ones’ eligibility such as:

  • Annual check-ups at an independent medical facility

  • Attendance of religious services

  • Supplemental education and tutoring 

  • Out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses

  • Transportation (including purchase of a vehicle)

  • Maintenance of vehicles

  • Purchase materials for a hobby or recreation activity

  • Funds for trips or vacations

  • Funds for entertainment such as movies, shows or ballgames. 

  • Purchase of goods and services that add pleasure and quality to life: computers, videos, furniture, or electronics.

  • Athletic training or competitions

  • Special dietary needs

  • Personal care attendant or escort

  • Special Needs Trusts are a critical component of your estate plan if you have disabled loved ones. Generally, Special Needs Trusts can be either stand-alone trusts funded with separate assets like a life insurance policy, or they can be a sub-trust component in your existing estate plan. There are even charitable organizations devoted to administering Special Needs Trusts for disabled beneficiaries, so you can establish your loved ones’ trust through those organizations while you are alive or after you pass away. 


Q: What is the purpose of a Special Needs Trust?

While you can certainly bequest money and assets to those with special needs, such a bequest may prevent them from qualifying for essential benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs. However, public monetary benefits provide only for the bare necessities such as food, housing and clothing. As you can imagine, these limited benefits will not provide those loved ones with the resources that would allow them to enjoy a richer quality of life. But if parents leave any assets to their child who is receiving public benefits, they run the risk of disqualifying the child from receiving them. Fortunately, the government has established rules allowing assets to be held in Trust, called a “Special Needs” or “Supplemental Needs” Trust for the benefit of a recipient of SSI and Medicaid, as long as certain requirements are met.

Q: When should a Special Needs Trust be established?

Generally, a Special Needs Trust should be established no later than the beneficiary’s 65th birthday. If you have a disabled or chronically ill beneficiary, you may want to consider establishing the Special Needs Trust at an early age. One benefit of having the Trust in place is that if the disabled beneficiary becomes the recipient of funds such as gifts, bequests or a settlement from a lawsuit, they can immediately be transferred to the Special Needs Trust without affecting that individual’s eligibility for government benefits.

Q: Who can establish a Special Needs Trust?

While Special Needs Trusts are typically established by parents for their disabled children, any third party can establish a Special Needs Trust for the benefit of a disabled beneficiary. It is important to seek the assistance of competent counsel when creating a Special Needs Trust. Indeed, a poorly drafted Trust can easily be subject to “invasion” by the government agencies who provide benefits. Our law firm has the experience and the expertise to establish effective Special Needs Trusts for anyone who wishes to provide for a disabled beneficiary.

Q: Our family is wealthy. Do we still need to create a Special Needs Trust?

Yes, you should still establish a Special Needs Trust to protect your disabled beneficiaries from potential creditors. For example, if your disabled beneficiaries are ever sued in a personal injury action, the assets in the Trust would not be available to the plaintiffs. Furthermore, because the funds in the Special Needs Trust are not countable as available assets for purposes of determining government benefit eligibility, more of your money can be used for those supplemental expenditures that will allow your disabled beneficiary to enjoy a higher quality of life. Otherwise, much of your assets will be used to pay for private care benefits that are extremely expensive and can drain even significant sums of money over a period of years.

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