Are you caring for a loved one with special needs? Are you concerned about what will happen to your loved one if and when you are unable to care for him or her? Who would take care of his or her financial, living and health needs? These are all serious questions and ones that you have probably contemplated and now you are wondering how best to proceed.

In creating a Florida estate plan with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney, he will show you the tools that are available for your special needs loved one to add to your estate plan. By beginning your planning now you will have time to implement a plan that will support your loved one, no matter what he or she may face. What is important is that you need to consider the unique needs of your loved one, plan forward and find the realistic and supportive options that do exist.  In our Florida law firm, we use special estate planning tools that will specifically ensure that your special needs loved one is not left unsupported at a time when you are either no longer here or cannot care for him or her.

One of the main planning tools to use for your special needs loved one is the Special Needs Trust, sometimes called a Supplemental Needs Trust. These trusts are legal documents designed to financially support special needs individuals without compromising their ability to qualify for valuable important government benefits, like Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. 

By using the trust based estate planning options mentioned in the above paragraph they can outlive parents or guardians and be managed by a trustee with the right skill set to protect the trust and its beneficiaries.  Trusts like these can also 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, which is another benefit.  A Special Needs Trust, which can be established at any time, will require a trustee, to both manage the trust and make decisions on the behalf of the special needs person.

Because the assets held within the trust will probably grow, you may need someone with specific financial skill to manage them. In addition, if a parent or guardian can no longer serve as the trustee, because of illness or death, selecting the right back-up is an extremely important decision. 

So, how do you choose the trustee for this important role? Let us share five questions to consider when choosing a second in command including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Does the potential trustee know and understand the special needs beneficiary and his or her unique situation and needs?
  • Will the potential trustee be able to encourage communication between the special needs person, caregivers, and service providers?
  • Is the potential trustee able to hire and regularly monitor service providers?
  • Is the potential trustee capable of paying the bills, helping secure housing, and medical care?
  • Does the potential trustee understand the importance of the government benefits that support the beneficiary?

In addition to caring for the needs of the beneficiary related to his or her diagnosis, trust management is also important so that the trust is protected. Be aware that there may be responsibilities that require technical expertise as well, including:

  • Knowing the language and intent of the trust.
  • Setting up the accounts for management of trust assets.
  • Collecting the income and wisely managing investment assets.
  • Being sure to receive and conduct periodic inventories of trust assets.
  • Always preparing and filing annual federal and state income tax returns.
  • Always working 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 fiduciary doesn’t 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 the Perlin Estate Planning & Probate our credentials enable us to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to our legal services.  By building relationships with our clients, we are also able to understand each client’s needs and desires, and we support such goals through thoughtful, comprehensive planning techniques. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.