Creating the most appropriate type of special needs trust and ensuring assets are aligned correctly with that trust is important. However, something as simple as a miscommunication between family members can jeopardize government benefits for a special needs beneficiary. Having a simple conversation with your close family and friends can make a huge difference in planning for your special needs beneficiary!
At Family Estate Planning Law Group, we focus on not just the creation of estate planning documents (trusts, wills, powers of attorney, etc.), but on aligning assets with the estate plan. As we discussed in our last blog, the biggest mistake in estate planning usually occurs when assets are not “titled” correctly (do not have the name of the trust as the name on the account) or when beneficiaries are not named consistent with the overall intent of the estate plan. With a special needs beneficiary, the stakes are always higher as parents and guardians try to anticipate what government benefits the beneficiary might need now or in the future and plan ahead to ensure they do not lose those benefits.
If you have not communicated your plan to loved ones, an inheritance from a grandparent, godparent, friend or other family member could put a special needs beneficiary’s benefits at risk. Even with the best of intentions, if that inheritance or gift goes directly into the hands of a special needs beneficiary or is deemed “available” to the beneficiary, it could count against them when applying for government benefits. But there is a simple way to address this problem: have a family meeting to discuss the planning you’ve done with those who are looking to help your special needs beneficiary.
Part of the process for our clients at Family Estate Planning Law Group is our Family Care Meeting. We work with our clients to ensure that those who will need to execute their estate plan—family members, fiduciaries, and financial professionals—have the opportunity to sit down and outline the plan together. For those planning for special needs beneficiaries, this can give you the chance to explain your special needs trust and the reasoning behind the planning you’ve done. You can discuss the best options with siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and close friends who want to help out.
That simple conversation can make a big difference in the life of a special needs beneficiary. It can prevent the loss of valuable government benefits, relieving some of the financial pressure on those who will care for and provide for your special needs beneficiary.
For more information, explore the Special Needs section of our website and contact us to schedule a consultation today!