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As you care for your special needs loved one, are you beginning to wonder who would be there for your loved one if you were disabled in an accident or passed away? As you age and begin to look to the future of your loved one and yourself how can you find the right person to take your place? The future for your special needs loved one without you may be scary but it is a reality that you must think about and begin to plan on how best to proceed.

With advance planning for your special needs loved one you will find that realistic and supportive options do exist. You have time now to create a plan for the future that will support your special needs loved one, no matter what he or she faces. In our law firm, we use special estate planning tools that exist specifically to ensure that your loved one is not left unsupported at a time when you are either no longer here or cannot care for him or her. Together, we will consider the unique needs of your loved one and plan forward.

The Special Needs Trust is the chief tool to use when planning for your special needs loved one. This is often called a Supplemental Needs Trust. This trust is legally designed to financially support special needs individuals without compromising their ability to qualify for valuable important government benefits, like Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.

The importance of using trust based planning options like the above is that the trust can outlive a parent or guardian and be managed by a trustee with the right skill set to protect the trust and its beneficiary. An additional benefit is that trusts like these can hold and manage property for special needs beneficiaries without giving them control over their assets if they lack the legal capacity to handle their own affairs. A Special Needs Trust can be established at any time by parents or loved ones to provide for their beneficiary in the future, they will require a trustee to both manage the trust and make decisions on the behalf of the special needs beneficiary.

Be mindful that if the assets held within the trust grow, it would be advantageous to have someone with specific financial skill to manage them. Also, if a parent or guardian can no longer serve as the trustee or they become ill or pass away, selecting the right back-up trustee would be an extremely significant decision affecting the future of your special needs loved one. How can you find the right back-up trustee for this important role? Let us share these considerations about choosing a back-up trustee including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The trustee should understand the special needs beneficiary’s unique situation and needs.
  • The trustee must maintain communication between the special needs person, caregivers, and service providers.
  • The trustee must be able to hire and regularly monitor service providers.
  • The trustee must be able to pay bills, help secure housing, and medical care.
  • The trustee must understand the government benefits that support the beneficiary.

Another important consideration in finding the right trustee is trust management. Not only does the trustee have responsibility in caring for the needs of the beneficiary related to his or her diagnosis, there is also ensuring that the trust is protected. In fact, there may be responsibilities that require technical expertise as well, including:

  • The trustee must become knowledgeable about the language and intent of the trust.
  • The trustee must establish accounts for management of trust assets.
  • The trustee must collect income and prudently manage investment assets.
  • The trustee must receive and conduct periodic inventories of trust assets.
  • The trustee must prepare and file annual federal and state income tax returns.
  • The trustee must work with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney who understands the nuances of managing a special needs trust.

We know this blog may raise more questions that it answers. There is much to consider as you plan for the future of a loved one with special needs. Remember, the trustee does not have to be a family member or friend. A trustee also can be an independent professional, or even an institution like a bank or a trust company. We encourage you to contact our office to schedule a time to discuss your planning goals and let us assist you.

At Britton G. Swank, P.A., our mission is to guide you in the right direction to help you provide for yourself and your loved ones no matter what the future holds. We want to help you control the assets you have, leave them to people and causes you care about, when you want, in the way you want. We can help you take care of yourself and those you love in the event of disability due to illness, injury or old age. No matter what risks unfold, we can help give you the comfort of knowing you are prepared. We want you to feel good about your future and the future of your loved ones. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.