One of the tasks an estate lawyer in Houston may handle is estate planning for children with disabilities. Children with disabilities need ongoing care, including financial care, throughout their lives. The best course of action for a parent of a disabled child is to speak to an estate lawyer in Houston to establish a special needs trust (“SNT”). An SNT makes sure that your child benefits from your estate without making them ineligible for SSI or Medicaid benefits.
Estate planning is complicated enough, but trying to do your best by your child can make your head spin. Willing them a lump sum, property, or other wealth directly may disqualify them from SSI and Medicaid and puts in their hands assets they may not be able to properly handle. However, if you leave them nothing, then they are without the financial security you have provided for your other children. If you give the assets you intend for your child with disabilities to their siblings for safekeeping, it legally becomes the siblings’ property. It won’t be protected from the siblings’ creditors, and it may be considered communal or joint property if the sibling is married when they receive it.
The best solution is to create a third-party special needs trust or SNT. A trust is an asset administered by a third-party trustee on behalf of a beneficiary. The third-party trustee is someone besides you (the benefactor) or the beneficiary (your child with special needs). Anyone you choose, including one or more of your other children, can agree to be a trustee. The trustee doesn’t own the assets, and they can’t make decisions that are against the beneficiary’s interests. The money in the trust is belongs to the trust and is spent solely on behalf of the beneficiary.
An estate lawyer in Houston can create a third-party SNT for your child with disabilities. Assets in a third-party SNT come from someone other than the beneficiary. They are also not used to determine your child’s eligibility for SSI and Medicaid. This is because the beneficiary, your child with special needs, doesn’t actually own the assets in the trust, so it is not considered a personal asset when determining eligibility for benefits. The trust can help to cover costs beyond what Medicaid and SSI provide, like dental care, transportation, and private nursing or care.
For example, a father may hire an estate lawyer to create a third-party SNT for his son with disabilities son who lives in an assisted living facility. Medicaid contributes nothing to the cost of assisted living, and SSI only covers a portion of the cost. The SNT, however, covers the rest of the cost. It also covers costs for things like dental cleanings, new clothes, and entertainment.
An estate lawyer in Houston who is experienced in creating a third party SNT can help you provide for your child with special needs. They can help you give your child all the benefit you can provide without forcing him or her to give up other benefit.