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How can a special needs trust help a loved one?

If you have a child or other loved one for whom you’re responsible who has a physical and/or mental disability, you likely are concerned about making sure that they receive the care they need if they outlive you. That means making sure that there’s money available for that care. Special needs trusts are generally the best way to do that. They can also help protect your loved one’s own money as well as government benefits while you’re still alive.

These trusts can be used to protect assets that your disabled loved one may have been awarded in a legal case. For example, if they were severely injured in a car accident and received a settlement or award from the at-fault driver, they might have a significant sum of money.

If you have a loved one who’s receiving benefits such as Medicaid, subsidized housing or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), those benefits could be cut or disappear entirely if you leave them a direct inheritance or if they receive money from a lawsuit. That could place them in serious financial peril if they’re not able to earn a living and support themselves. That money may last them only a few years. By placing funds in a special needs trust, you can ensure that it won’t interfere with whatever government benefits on which they may rely.

Choosing the right trustee and successor trustees is essential when setting up a special needs trust. You may choose to be the trustee while you’re alive or you may select a corporate trustee for now and after you’re gone. A sibling or other family member may not always be the best choice for trustee. Whomever you put in this position must responsibly manage the money as you intend for the benefit of your loved one. This may include making investment decisions to help ensure the security and/or growth of the funds in the trust.

Are you considering setting up a special needs trust, whether to help ensure the care of a loved one who’s unable to care for and support themselves or to protect someone with a mental disability who may not be able to responsibly manage their own money? If so, it’s essential to seek the guidance of an experienced Tennessee estate planning attorney. They can answer your questions and help you craft a trust that will give you peace of mind.