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Can Estate Planning Include Special Needs?

Veliz Katz Law Nov. 5, 2019

When you have a special needs child in your family, your first instinct may be to protect that person against any kind of abuse and to secure his or her financial future. To do so, many people wonder if they can leave money and/or other assets to the loved one with special needs in a will executed in Florida.

The answer to those types of questions is yes. There is, however, a caveat: depending on the circumstances, leaving assets in a will to a special needs beneficiary may disqualify your loved one from other financial sources, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs. These government programs provide essential benefits. That said, these essential benefits are limited to basic necessities, like:

  • food,

  • clothing, and

  • housing.

So, on the one hand, a special needs person may qualify for government benefits, but those benefits are limited. On the other hand, you can leave assets to a special needs loved one in a will, but that could disqualify your loved one from receiving government assistance. If you want to make sure your special needs loved one is financially stable upon your death, what can you do in Florida via estate planning?

How Can You Protect a Loved One with Special Needs in Florida?

You can open a trust for your loved one – a trust known as a Special Needs Trust. This kind of trust usually must be set up prior to the beneficiary's 65th birthday. This trust – if drafted and executed properly – will prevent the government from disqualifying a beneficiary from government benefits.

A special needs trust will also allow any lawsuit settlement money, gifts, or other funds to be transferred to the trust. In this way, those monies, too, will be protected and cannot be used as a reason to disqualify government benefits that a special needs person enjoys.

Do You Still Need a Special Needs Trust in Florida Even if You Don't Need Government Assistance?

Some people may think that because a special needs person does not currently qualify for government funding because his or her family is wealthy, they don't need to establish a special needs trust but can instead leave assets in a will for a loved one.

But imagine this: your loved one is sued or you are sued for one reason or another. The money in the trust cannot be touched by the plaintiff in the lawsuit regardless of whether or not the plaintiff wins his or her case. Further, a trust fund can help you as well – if the fund is set up right.

If you live in Orlando or anywhere in Central Florida, the estate planning attorneys at Veliz Katz Law can help you make sure you establish trust funds in a way they benefit you and a special needs loved one. Knowing a loved one will be taken care of is probably the best benefit of any trust. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.