Many parents and grandparents don’t realize that a child, grandchild, or other beneficiary with a disability complicates an estate plan. If you have such a loved one you want to provide for in your estate plan, you need an appropriate trust even more so than someone without a disabled beneficiary in the picture. Here are some of the points often overlooked in planning for a special needs beneficiary:
Outright distributions to a special needs child or adult will likely make the beneficiary ineligible for continued SSI or Medi-Cal benefits. On the other hand, leaving such a beneficiary out of your will or trust may not be something you feel comfortable with and disinheriting that person could leave the beneficiary with total reliance on such benefits. Sometimes people think they will leave property or assets to another family member with the understanding that he or she will provide for the disabled beneficiary. This approach is unwise as the family member could not follow through ( it happens), die, or run into financial difficulty.
The way around the issue is to create a third party special needs trust as part of your estate plan. If you already have a trust, a stand-alone special needs trust can be drafted. If you haven’t created a trust yet, a special needs trust can be incorporated into yours. The trust can provide distributions for the beneficiary’s special needs, such as medical care not covered by public benefits, computers, TV, vacations, and other items or activities to enhance the beneficiary’s life. With such a trust, the beneficiary is able to continue eligibility for government benefits and use his or her inheritance to supplement those benefits.
The other aspect of estate planning to consider when you have a special needs family member is to be sure that beneficiary designations and life insurance beneficiaries do not include the disabled person. A beneficiary who receives a pay out from an insurance policy, annuity, or pension plan is also subject to losing public benefits.