Special Needs Trusts enable people, typically parents, to provide for another (typically, their child), without jeopardizing the government benefits that the special needs child is receiving.
There is typically a problem when parents bequeath assets to their special needs children. When the child inherits in his or her own name, the child could lose valuable government benefits that the child is receiving. In order to originally qualify for these benefits, the child had to be "means-tested." Often, the child must have and maintain no more than $2,000 in their name to receive these benefits. If the child receives an inheritance, the child may lose these valuable benefits.
So many parents leave assets for the special needs child in a third-party Special Needs Trust. When done properly, the trust can enhance and enrich the child's life while preserving the government benefits that are means-tested.
In general, there are certain provisions that should not be included in a trust that you leave behind for your special needs child. The trust should not authorize the trustee to make broad distributions to or for the health, education, maintenance, or support of the child (known as the "HEMS" standard).
In addition, the trust must not allow the child/beneficiary to compel distributions to himself or herself.
However, there are a number of permissible distributions to or for the benefit of the special needs child, including distributions for medical needs, travel, recreation, home improvements, auto expenses, and cleaning, to name a few.
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