Special Needs Trusts

Special Needs Planning Issues Following Divorce

Divorce can be complicated, frustrating, disappointing, expensive, along with a whole range of other emotions, as anyone who has endured this type of proceeding can attest. As difficult as the issues can be in a divorce proceeding, can you imagine what happens when divorce involves a child with a disability?

We will focus on one case study to illustrate how much more difficult the issues can be when a child with a disability is involved in the marital split, and how important it is to have someone knowledgeable in government benefits and special needs planning issues participate in the proceedings.

The Facts
Consider the following situation: Husband and wife divorce in 1996, when their child, who is disabled, was 4 years old. The husband was ordered to pay approximately $2,800 per month in child support (considered to be about three times an ordinary child support order based upon his assets and income) for the life of the child. While it is unusual to see lifetime child support payments, and the award was larger than is customary, the husband agreed to this primarily because of the guilt he felt around the divorce. He also knew that his daughter was disabled and would require as much help as possible.

Special Planning for Special Needs, Part II

Last week, I introduced you to Special Needs Planning and Special Needs Trusts. This week, I'd like to talk about a very important distinction between the two main types of Special Needs Trusts and why it is critical that you know the difference.

Kinds of Special Needs Trusts

There are basically two types of Special Needs Trusts: 1) "First Party" Special Needs Trusts, and 2) "Third Party" Special Needs Trusts.

A First Party Special Needs Trust (also called a "Self-settled" or "Self-created" Special Needs Trust) is a trust established with assets that belong to the person with disabilities. Typically, these assets come in the form of personal injury settlements or judgments, inheritances, lump sum Social Security payments, or other funds belonging directly to the person with disabilities.

Special Planning for Special Needs, Part I

Families who have children with special needs have very little exposure to the legal issues that surround planning for these children. Just as with any type of estate planning, unless we take control and make our own plan that fits our unique family circumstances, the state has its own backup plan for our families. And often, it's not what you would have wanted.

"Who will care for my loved ones when I'm gone?" is something every parent worries about. But for parents of special needs children, this worry can be even more acute.

For families of special needs children, planning for the future involves thinking about a lifetime of care like: where the child will live, if they will have adequate financial resources to support themselves, and who will be involved in their day-to-day care. Answering questions like these requires a comprehensive planning process called Future Care (or Special Needs) Planning.

Special Needs Trusts Can Provide Enhanced Lifestyle

A Special Needs Trust (“SNT”) is a unique legal instrument that can provide a disabled individual supplemental benefits above and beyond those provided by government need-based benefits.

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