For anyone who has a child or dependent with special needs, leaving that child unprotected and unprovided for is a nightmare that can result in many sleepless nights for parents. As parents, the ideal scenario is that we teach our children to be self-sufficient so they can take care of themselves – and maybe even their own children – after we’re gone. But that’s not always possible when your child has special needs and may or may not be able to hold down a job or take care of their day-to-day needs, much less make responsible financial decisions. So you may be thinking, how do I provide for a special needs child in my will?
In Illinois, an individual with special needs is entitled to receive monthly payments in Supplemental Security Income (SSI), assuming they meet the criteria for their asset worth and monthly income, if any. If they have any sort of income, but it is less than what they’d receive in benefits, then their SSI is reduced until the combination of their income and SSI adds up to the total eligible benefit amount.
Of course, relying solely on SSI may not be sufficient to live on, so parents and loved ones have the option of setting up a Special Needs Trust (a.k.a. Supplemental Needs Trust). A Special Needs Trust may allow someone with special needs to accumulate assets or income that exceed the SSI thresholds, while still getting the maximum amount they can in SSI benefits.
Generally, a Special Needs Trust is set up by a parent or other loved one, who then acts as trustee. Banks often also have people on staff who can manage these trusts for you. Once the trust is set up, a bank account can be opened in the name of the trust and any income (aside from SSI), assets and/or gifts from loved ones can be deposited into the trust bank account.
The trustee is responsible for managing those funds and ensuring they are used only for the trust’s beneficiary, not including room and board, which are supposed to be covered by the SSI. The idea behind the trust is to ensure a good quality of life for the beneficiary by providing a source of disposable income to go towards things they don’t necessarily need, but could still benefit from.
When a parent of a child with special needs is planning for their estate, it is generally recommended that, rather than leaving a typical inheritance for their child, they put that inheritance into that child’s Special Needs Trust instead. This can help avoid the risk of the child losing their SSI eligibility.
As with all estate planning, parents are better off setting up a Special Needs Trust for their children as soon as possible in order to avoid leaving their children high and dry if something were to happen to them. Don’t leave it to someone else to set up the trust after you’ve passed away because that can make things much more complicated and more difficult. Instead, be sure to stay on top of things by getting everything in order now to make sure your child has everything they need after you’re gone.
The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests.