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Special Needs Trusts 101 | Marietta GA Special Needs Attorney

Special Needs Trusts 101 | Marietta GA Special Needs Attorney

By: Steve Worrall, Marietta GA special needs attorney

As a Marietta special needs attorney, I’m often asked, “What exactly is a Special Needs Trust?”

For starters, a special needs trust is a legal entity created to hold assets of a person with a mental or physical disability. The trust names a trustee whose job is to manage the assets and distribute them according to the provisions of the trust.  There are specific limitations on the way assets can be distributed so that they do not disqualify the beneficiary from eligibility for government programs.

There are two primary types of special needs trusts.  They are:

Self Settled Special Needs Trusts

In a self-settled special needs trust the assets in the trust belong to the beneficiary.  For example, if the person becomes disabled due to the negligence of a doctor or car accident, it is possible that the beneficiary received a settlement as a result of litigation.  In this case, a self-settled special needs trust would be created for the beneficiary to receive and hold the settlement funds in order to preserve government benefits.

Third Party Special Needs Trusts

A third party special needs trust is created by a third party with assets that belong to the third party.  For example, the parents of a child born with Down syndrome or autism might create a special needs trust for their child as a part of their overall estate plan.  In the case of a third party special needs trust, family members may make lifetime gifts to the child.

Distributions for Special Needs Trusts

In order to preserve government benefits, it is important to direct the trustee not to pay for services that are provided by a government agency.  If done correctly, the assets in the special needs trust will not be counted as a resource.  The trust must authorize distributions only for special or supplemental needs.  Some examples of this might include dental care, specialized therapy, and services of a caregiver. Improper distributions of a special needs trust can cause a loss of government services, so it is critical that the trust is set up and then managed properly.

Who Should Create a Special Needs Trust?

Not all Georgia estate planning attorneys have the training, expertise or knowledge to create a special needs trust.  You should consult with an attorney who is experienced in creating these trusts and who knows how to properly advise trustees.

What an Atlanta Special Needs Planning Attorney Will Do for You

Atlanta Special Needs Planning AttorneySpecial needs planning attorneys in Atlanta have very specialized knowledge that can help families plan for their children’s future.  There are so many things to keep straight when it comes to raising your special needs child, and focusing on what will happen to him or her after your death is not something that is pleasant to contemplate.  Still, it is very important to take the time to meet with a special needs planning attorney in Atlanta in order to give your child the best opportunities.

An Important Tool

Special needs planning is a part of estate planning, and one of the most common things an Atlanta GA special needs atttorney is likely to advise will be a “special needs trust.”  The reason that this trust is so important is that it allows you to set aside money for your child’s future without jeopardizing his or her eligibility for government benefits such as Social Security and Medicaid.  Unfortunately, leaving your child even a small inheritance can make it so he or she is no longer eligible for this kind of aid and can severely impact quality of life.

Trusts for Your Child

There are different types of trusts that the attorney will go over with you.  Some are funded by the person with special needs, say through an award from a personal injury case or from an inheritance.  Others are specifically funded by a third party such as parents or other family members.  The second kind is the special needs trust, and if it’s the right choice for you, a qualified Georgia special needs trust attorney will be able to help you understand your options with the trust.

People to Consider

In addition to helping you set up the trust, a special needs attorney will also be able to help you determine the appropriate trustee.  In some cases, this may be a family member or other caregiver.  In other cases, the lawyer or firm may take care of the administration of the trust.  An advocate may also be chosen.  This person will be familiar with both the beneficiary’s needs and the intentions and wishes of the person creating the special needs trust.

Using the Trust

When the trust is set up, the person creating it (called the “grantor”) has a say in how the funds are to be used.  For example, money can be dedicated to the daily needs of the beneficiary.  Dispersal schedules can be created, as well.  In this way, rather than giving someone a single lump sum, you can set up a situation where monthly allotments are made.  The advocate would understand this and work with the trustee to make sure the terms were being followed in the beneficiary’s best interest.  At the same time, the trustee is charged with managing the funds through investments or other means that keep the trust funded.

Of course, this is just an introduction to the possibilities of a trust.  For a much fuller understanding and to get the ball rolling, we invite you to contact our Atlanta special needs attorneys who are knowledgeable about the field, as well as how Georgia’s state laws come into play.  To schedule a Georgia Treasures Planning Session (valued at $750) at no charge, simply call 770.425.6060 and mention this article.

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