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Special needs planning, part 1: what is a special needs trust?

As you may know, it is important that people with special needs, such as a lifelong disability, get the medical care they need, as well as other benefits and services. A disabled Florida resident who owns too many assets may become ineligible for Medicaid and other government benefits. As such, effectively planning the estate of a loved one with special needs can get complicated, but it can be done in a way that safeguards his or her property and keeps these essential government benefits intact.

The American Bar Association explains that families can establish a special needs trust for a loved one with disabilities that enables the person to meet expenses, buy clothing, enjoy entertainment and have a good qualify of life without jeopardizing his or her government assistance eligibility. For example, say your father was in an automobile accident that left him with moderate, permanent brain injuries. He still has some degree of independence, but he is no longer able to make competent financial decisions on his own. You and your siblings might place his property in a special needs trust so he can receive Medicaid and disability. Using the funds from the trust, he could pay his bills, buy groceries and enjoy a dinner out now and then.

As you might expect, trust planning and administration needs to be precise to be effective and so your loved ones’ interests are protected. Therefore, the information in this blog is meant to educate you, but it should not replace the advice of an experienced estate planning lawyer.

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