Statistics show that 26% of American adults live with some form of disability– more than you might think. However, federal and state benefits, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are available for persons with special needs. These benefits are “needs-based,” which means the amount of assets and income the beneficiary can have are very limited.
When planning for a loved one with special needs, you must ensure they don’t receive money or other assets thatcould cause disqualification from their government benefits. Here are some common mistakes in special needs planning.
Gifts of money or assets from well-intentioned family members or friends can disqualify a loved one with special needs from government benefits. This would cauwe their countable assets to exceed the acceptable limit. After getting disqualified, it can be difficult to requalify for benefits. It’s better to have gifts go to a special needs trust or a similar financial planning tool set up for the benefit of the recipient.
Some parents believe if they disinherit their child with special needs, that child’s siblings will help take care of them for the remainder of their life. This plan puts a lot of responsibility on the other siblings and can fall apart for many reasons. If the inheritance is in the siblings’ names, it could be lost due to divorce, lawsuits, bankruptcy, or irresponsible spending. Additionally, Louisiana’s forced heirship laws can foil such a plan. Forced heirship requires that a special needs child (or grandchild in some circumstances) must received a certain amount of a decedent’s estate after he or she dies.
Lack of a Trust
Failing to create a special needs trust for your loved one with special needs is a common mistake. Government benefits are used for basic living expenses, such as housing, food, and medical care. Therefore, a person with special needs usually won’t have enough money for other expenses, such as travel and hobbies. Creating a special needs trust can make funds available for expenses that government benefits don’t cover.
Similar to gift-giving from family members and friends, donations from a crowdfunding campaign can negatively affect your loved one with special needs. By pushing their countable assets over the acceptable limit. If you want to create a crowdfunding campaign to benefit your loved one with special needs, find a way to keep the funds out of your loved one’s name. Again, a special needs trust could be a good option.
Consult an Attorney
The best way to avoid making mistakes that could cause your loved one with special needs to lose their government benefits is to consult with an attorney experienced in elder law and estate planning. They will be able to help you find the best solution for your particular situation.
Our law firm is dedicated to informing you of issues affecting persons with special needs. We help you and your loved ones plan for the best possible future. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.