Special Needs Planning

Smoothing out bumps on the road of life

"Somewhere there is a map of how it can be done."

–Ben Stein

Among the many challenges facing parents of children of any age with special needs or those families whose loved one has suffered a catastrophic illness or accident, is planning for the time when a family member will no longer be able to act as the primary care giver. Families of disabled persons face unique estate and long term care planning challenges. Whether the person with a disability is a minor child, adult child, sibling, or more remote relative, families looking to plan for the continued care and support of their loved one must delicately balance their own estate and long term care planning goals with the needs of the disabled person. While a family’s love and care cannot be replaced, implementing a plan and preparing for crisis can give the family peace of mind and ease the burden on survivors.

Appropriate special needs planning can ensure that a disabled person is provided for, both financially and personally. Special needs planning is a broad area of practice, that encompasses planning for the individual with needs and for that individual’s family. A disabled person needs to have his or her benefits carefully coordinated to ensure that the maximum governmental assistance is being received, and to ensure that the person assisting him or her is adequately versed in the rules concerning those government benefits. A person planning to leave an inheritance to a disabled person, or anyone helping a disabled person manage his or her own affairs, must keep a multitude of factors in mind when planning.

Burke & Casserly, P.C., can help a family through the process of a guardianship, wherein the family makes a choice as to who will care for the person with special needs both presently and in the future. We can assist the family in securing or maximizing government benefits, and in preserving assets of the person with special needs so as to enable that person to live a more full life. We can also work with spouses, parents, grandparents, siblings and other concerned relatives to establish trusts to ensure the resources will be available to the person with special needs even when those relatives themselves have passed on.

Special Needs Planning services include:

  • applying and qualifying for all government benefits, including SSI (Supplemental Security Income), SSDI (Social Security Disability Income), Food Stamps, Medicare, Subsidized Housing, and others, as appropriate
  • qualifying and applying for home and community-based Medicaid
  • estate planning for family members, including possible establishment of testamentary SNT (special needs trust, sometimes called supplemental needs trust)
  • establishment of first-party SNT for holding funds of disabled person
  • joinder of and participation in pooled supplemental needs trusts
  • petitioning appropriate court for Guardianship under Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 or under Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act Article 17-A, as appropriate
  • advice and counseling to persons serving as trustees of SNTs and/or guardians of persons and property to ensure compliance with trust document or court appointment, as appropriate

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