Do You Have a Child With Special Needs?

If you’re the parent of a child with special needs – that is, a minor or adult child with a physical or mental disability – you are understandably concerned about what may happen when you’re no longer able to act as that child’s parent and caretaker. A Houston trust attorney can help.

If you’re the parent of a special needs child, a special needs trust ensures that your child is cared for properly after your death or if you become incapacitated. You can establish a special needs trust with the advice and guidance of a Houston estate planning lawyer and trust attorney.

Without a special needs trust, your special needs child could become ineligible to receive any public benefits, spend or lose an inheritance, or even be exploited and victimized by others. What advantages does a special needs trust provide? How does it work, and how do you set it up?

Why Should You Set Up a Special Needs Trust?

A trust is a financial and legal document that specifies how a designated trustee will manage assets on another individual’s behalf. For a special needs trust, you will need to designate as your trustee someone you know who is trustworthy, knowledgeable, and good with details.

Under federal law, the funds for a special needs child may be held in a special needs trust without jeopardizing the child’s eligibility for public benefits, provided that the special needs trust meets a number of precise legal requirements.

If you give or leave assets directly to a special needs child, you may unintentionally prevent that child from remaining eligible for public benefits. However, if you transfer the assets to a special needs trust, your child can be cared for properly while retaining eligibility for those benefits.

If you have a disabled or special needs child who relies on you, let a Houston trust attorney work with you to establish a special needs trust – a trust that is compliant with all federal and state laws – in order to take care of your child after your death or if you become incapacitated.

What Public Benefits May Be Available for Special Needs Children?

Many of the children in Texas who have disabilities or special needs qualify to receive public benefits. Your special needs child may be eligible for the Medicaid program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The Medicaid program in Texas pays a variety of basic healthcare expenses for special needs children who are eligible. Adults with little or no income or resources may qualify for Supplemental Security Income. SNAP helps families and individuals make grocery purchases.

If your special needs child is qualified to receive any of these public benefits, an inheritance could disqualify your child. Special needs individuals are eligible for public benefits only when their financial resources and incomes are exceptionally limited.

How Does a Special Needs Trust Work?

Your special needs child won’t have any control over the funds that you transfer into a special needs trust. Those funds are owned by the trust itself and overseen by the person you’ve named as the trustee.

During your lifetime, you may act as the trustee and manage the trust funds yourself, but you’ll also be required to name a successor trustee who will manage the trust and pay expenses for your special needs child after you’ve passed away or if you become incapacitated.

If your special needs child needs full-time medical care, your Houston estate planning lawyer can prepare a trust that takes effect after your death to minimize out-of-pocket costs while maintaining your child’s eligibility for public benefits and maximizing savings for your family.

If your child with special needs is under 18, you should name a guardian in case you and your child’s other parent unexpectedly pass away. If you fail to designate a guardian and both parents pass away, the court will designate a guardian, but that is a choice that should be yours.

What Else Should You Know About Special Needs Trusts?

A trust for a child who has special needs must be written thoughtfully and precisely. It’s important to convey clearly that the trust is for your special needs child’s “supplemental and extra care” over and above what public benefits provide.

The trustee you name will manage the trust’s expenditures and pay for the child’s housing, healthcare, utilities, and other expenses. A special needs trust cannot directly transfer cash to your special needs child.

Special needs trusts are “irrevocable” trusts, so a special needs trust cannot be canceled, and its terms and conditions cannot be modified, without court approval. The funds in special needs trusts aren’t subject to liens, can’t be taken by creditors, and are not at risk from lawsuits.

What Are “Pooled” Special Needs Trusts?

If you prepare a special needs trust that is “pooled,” rather than designating an individual as the trustee, you will designate a non-profit group that pools the funds from a number of trusts for more profitable investing.

These non-profits maintain individual trust accounts and assign an account manager to assist each beneficiary. Pooled trusts ensure that trust funds are managed competently, that beneficiaries receive proper care, and that beneficiaries remain qualified for public benefits.

How Can You Find the Right Trust Attorney?

Your attorney should be an experienced trust and estate planning attorney who understands your concerns about your child’s long-term special needs. A trust attorney can offer guidance and insights, but the final decisions about a special needs trust for your child are yours alone.

The Hatchett Law Firm, PLLC, will put the law to work for you at an affordable rate. We will work with you and your family to create the trust that will ensure the well-being of your special needs child, and we’ll also ensure that you understand the choices you’re making.

To find out more about special needs trusts and our other estate planning services, call The Hatchett Law Firm promptly at 281-771-0560. Our founding attorneys have more than thirty years of planning experience for families throughout Texas and can provide affordable options for planning for your loved ones.