What is Special Needs Planning?
Special needs planning refers to the legal strategies used for any person or family member with a disability. Disabilities may be diagnosed at birth or adulthood and may be caused by illness or injury. Special needs planning can start at any point in life; however, the earlier you plan, the better.
At Uniquely You Estate Planning, our special needs legal strategies include the following:
- Establishing a special needs trust
- Appointing guardianship
- Creating a letter of intent
Special Needs Trusts (SNT)
A special needs trust is designed to protect the assets of a loved one who receives benefits due to a mental or physical disability or payments arising from a personal injury settlement. It ensures trust assets are not countable resources of the person with the disability when determining eligibility for government programs.
It’s crucial to properly fund a special needs trust (SNT), designating your trust as the owner of certain assets. The trustee can then distribute these assets to benefit your disabled loved one.
First-Party Special Needs Trusts — Money from a personal injury settlement or inheritance received directly by the beneficiary can fund first-party trusts for those under 65 years old. However, upon the death of the disabled individual, these trusts have payback provisions for Medicaid.
Third-Party Special Needs Trusts — Family members or friends can contribute to this trust using inheritances, family savings, and other financial gifts, with no payback provisions for Medicaid.
To provide for a loved one with special needs, the trust must be carefully set up to comply with federal and New Hampshire state rules. At Uniquely You Estate Planning, we ensure that your trust is successful in meeting its goals.
New Hampshire Guardianship and Conservatorship
A guardian is someone who agrees to take on the responsibility of personal and medical decisions. A conservator has the authority to pay bills and handle other financial matters. Guardianship or conservatorship may be necessary after a child with special needs turns eighteen if they are not able to make their own legal and medical decisions.
It’s vital to set up guardianship in your estate plan in case both parents are unable to care for the child or adult with special needs. An adult sibling, close family member, friend, public agency, or not-for-profit may become guardian.
Letter of Intent
This letter is an informal but very detailed account of your loved one’s medical, educational, social, and behavioral requirements. A letter of intent gives future caregivers or guardians an inside look at the person with special needs that they can only get from a parent or close family member.
The letter can include family history, an overview of the disability, medical history, and instructions for ongoing needs. Often children and adults with special needs value routine and struggle with change. It’s important to include daily schedules and habits that are important, such as foods they like, preferred living arrangements, or behavior management techniques. You should also outline the benefits received by loved one and how to maintain them.
An Experienced Special Needs Attorney
Planning for the care of an adult child with special needs can be complicated. Dawn DiManna, Esq. at Uniquely You, has over 15 years of experience helping clients in New Hampshire understand estate planning, elder law, asset protection, long-term care, proactive and crisis Medicaid planning, and Veterans planning.
I highly recommend Dawn DiManna! She has the knowledge and expertise to guide you and help make a unique plan for you and your family. You owe it to your family to have the best plan! Life can change in a moment. Be prepared!
Dawn really made a complicated experience as easy as it could be and has given me tremendous peace of mind. I now understand that estate planning is a gift to my family and something I should have done a long time ago.
Dawn is an attorney that listens, makes no false promises and goes above and beyond when life throws that curve at you. One in a million; wish there was a really good name for really good lawyers!