Local experts explain what a special needs trust is and why you might consider one for your child
Being the parent of a child with special needs is overwhelming at times. Your life is full of research, acronyms, meetings, and therapy sessions. As a result, creating a special needs trust might seem too stressful.
Here’s the good news. There are local experts out there who will guide you every step of the way.
What is a special needs trust
Special needs trusts have been around a long time but have really taken off in the last decade.
Melissa Epstein, local attorney at Epstein Legal Services, P.L.L.C. and mother of a child with a disability, explains that a special needs trust is “a place to hold assets that you want to set aside to improve the quality of life of your loved one with a disability when you no longer can.”
A special needs trust is different from a traditional trust in that it has “very specific language that helps protect access to government benefits for the person with a disability while also allowing the family to provide ongoing financial support.”
Why your child may need one
Local financial advisor, Deb Purcell, MBA, at A New Path Financial shares that “when you have a child with special needs, you need to do financial planning for two lifetimes: your own and your child’s.”
While a family can apply for government assistance for their child with a disability, the funds are limited, and the cost of care is high. Creating a special needs trust helps to provide your child with necessary resources not covered by government benefits, such as attending care, transportation, technology, and certain types of medical treatment.
However, the process of ensuring your child receives all the benefits needed can be a complicated one. As Purcell explains, “if a family provides the same kind of benefits that the government is providing, it counts against the child’s ability to get those benefits.” This is why it’s so important to seek out expert legal advice.
Purcell also recommends reaching out to WACA (Washtenaw Association for Community Advocacy), an organization that helps families navigate government benefits for people with disabilities.
Who qualifies for a special needs trust
Epstein emphasizes special needs trusts are “not for the rich. They are for anyone.”
Anyone with a disability can have a special needs trust and anyone can create one, including grandparents. Families should seek out an attorney to set up this trust.
Proof of disability is not needed to create a special needs trust; however, to qualify for government benefits, a diagnosis is needed and there are age cut-offs for certain types of benefits. Purcell emphasizes that these benefits become “even more important when the child reaches adulthood.”
When should I create one
“It’s never too early and it’s never too late” Epstein shares. She has helped families prepare trusts for two-year-olds as well as fifty-year-olds.
The key is not to wait to reach out for help. “Go in with questions. You don’t have to have all the answers. You’ll figure them out along the way. Trust the process.”
For financial advice, visit www.anewpathfinancial.com or call at (734) 330-2266 and ask for Deb Purcell.
For help setting up a special needs trust, visit www.epsteinlegalservices.com or call (734) 221-0308 and ask for Melissa Epstein.