Suffolk County Special Needs Trust Lawyer

In addition to planning how your property will be distributed once you pass away, estate planning also involves planning for the care of family members with special needs. Special needs estate planning focuses on the need to provide for the special needs of your loved ones who have disabilities when you are no longer there to help organize and advocate on that person's behalf. A comprehensive plan will take into consideration your loved one's future legal, financial, and care needs. A good place to start is to set up a special needs trust. Under New York Law a special needs trust is a trust that is designed specifically to help provide for the needs of physically or mentally challenged people. NY EPTL § 7-1.12 . A Suffolk County Special Needs Trust Lawyer will be able to set up the special needs trust for you and also help you set up any other components of your special needs estate plan that will help make sure that your loved one with special needs enjoys a high quality of life even after you have passed away.

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement set up by a trustor or grantor of the benefit of a beneficiary. The trustor transfers property into the trust that will be managed by a trustee. The trust agreement contains instructions concerning the management and distribution of the assets placed in the trust. Trusts are used for a variety of purposes in estate planning, including providing for someone with special needs.

What does special needs trust do?

A special needs trust (SNT), sometimes referred to as a supplemental needs trust, is designed to preserve the beneficiaries' assets and at the same time ensure that the beneficiary remains eligible for government benefits. There are cases where a person with special needs has significant assets. This can be from family assets, from a lawsuit settlement, or from some other source. If a person has assets above a specified threshold, then that person would be ineligible for certain government benefits, despite that person's disability. If the assets of a person with special needs are transferred into a SNT, then the funds can be accessed and used for the benefit of the beneficiary without the funds counting as a financial asset for benefit eligibility purposes.

For what purposes can SNT fund be used?

However, the funds in SNT cannot be used for just anything. The funds in a SNT can only be used for specific purposes related to the beneficiary's care, education, therapy, as well as for products and services that will add to his or her quality of life.

  • Medical Services. Medical treatment and care that is not covered by Medicare, trust, such as visits to the doctor, dental care, eye exams, and hearing exams.
  • Medication and Devices. In addition to medication, SNT funds can be used to pay for health and medical devices such as glasses, hearing aids, prosthetic devices, and expenses for maintenance of these devices.
  • Assistive Technology. SNT fund can be used to purchase or rent assistive technology such as computers, computer software, tablets, amplifiers, wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
  • Education. A special needs trust can provide funds for vocational training and educational expenses such as tuition, books, supplies, computer and software.
  • Transportation. Funds from a SNT can be used to purchase of a car titled in the name of the beneficiary, or to modify a vehicle.
  • Home Improvements. Funds from a special needs trust can be used to pay for home modifications such as ramps and rails to accommodate the beneficiary.

On the other hand, money from a SNT cannot be used to pay for everyday living items such as groceries, restaurant meals, mortgage or rent payments, property taxes and utilities. Paying such expenses from the trust may cause a financial penalty if the beneficiary is also receiving governmental benefits. In addition, even of the funds are used for eligible expenses, the cash should not be given to the beneficiary from the trust fund. Instead, the vendor should be paid directly.

Selecting a Trustee

A good SNT trustee is critical to a successful special needs estate plan. The trustee of an SNT typically has very broad discretionary powers and authority over the management of SNT funds. Typically the trustee are parents, grandparents, siblings, other family members are close family friends. In some cases the trustee is a corporation or institution. It is important that the trustee is not only trustworthy, but that he or she also has the financial acumen to prudently manage trust assets as well as an understanding of the rules and regulations related to special needs trusts.

Here are some issues to consider when selecting the trustee for your special needs trust:

  • Is the person both willing and able to serve as trustee for an extended period of time? It is best to not change trustees often.
  • Does the person already have a relationship with the beneficiary?
  • Will the person be responsive and attentive to the needs of the beneficiary?
  • Are there possible conflicts of interest?
  • Does the person have a strong financial background?
  • Is the person familiar with the rules related to Medicaid and SSI?
  • Can you afford the fees for professional management?
  • Is the person personally and financially stable?
  • How much can the trust afford to pay the trustee?
  • Consider naming co-trustees
  • Consider naming successor trustee
Beneficiaries of Special Need Trusts

While special needs trusts are often established by parents for children with disabilities, they can be set up for the benefit of anyone who has a special need and requires resources for their long-term care. You can set up a special needs trust for other relatives such as a sibling. Some spouses or children set up special needs trusts for a spouse or parent who has Alzheimer's disease, dementia, or other degenerative ailment or disability.

A special needs trust may be just one of several tools in your special needs estate plan necessary to provide for your loved one who has special needs. You may also need a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, a living will, additional trusts, and an advanced health care directive. To ensure that your SNT and other estate planning documents are properly drafted and executed, it is important for you to have experienced representation. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC will help you develop an overall special needs estate plan that reflects your specific family needs. Contact us at 1.800.NY.NY.LAW (1.800.696.9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your estate plan. We serve individuals throughout the following locations:

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