A very special theme park opened in San Antonio, Texas this past spring. It is called Morgan’s Wonderland and is a 25 acre theme park designed for kids and adults with special needs. Gordon and Maggie Hartrman found out 13 years ago that their only child Morgan had severe cognitive delays and this park was their dream. The park is free to visitors with special needs and features wheelchair accessible rides including a carousel and off-road jeep as well as sensory-stimulating activies and an interactive garden.
Children and adults with special needs also need “special” estate planning. If you have a child or other beneficiary that is developmentally disabled, they usually will be receiving public benefits at some point in their life. This could be SSI (supplemental security income) or Medi-Cal. If you leave such beneficiaries a distribution from your estate outright, it can affect their eligibility for these benefits. When you create your estate plan, you can provide for distributions to go instead to a Special Needs Trust, a trust designed to keep the beneficiary eligible for public benefits. Such trusts can be part of your own trust or they can be a stand alone special needs trust.
A properly drafted Special Needs Trust will hold the cash or other assets in trust, not under the control of the disabled individual, and thereby allow the beneficiary to continue to receive government benefits. In addition, the trust may pay for some special needs of the beneficiary at the discretion of the trustee. Such items as medical, dental, personal services, and handicapped-equipped vehicles may be paid for by the trust without jeopardizing benefits. It is important that the trustee adhere to certain standards for maintaining the trust and investing the trust assets. The trustee needs to be aware that the assets of the trust can only be used to purchase supplemental items or services which are not provided by public benefits.
We frequently prepare estate plans for families that have a disabled beneficiary and can include a special needs trust in the plan. Call us for more information or to set up a complimentary appointment.