Special Needs Trust Attorneys – Waukegan, IL
You can expect experienced legal guidance from our Special Needs Trust Attorneys at The Good Law Group. Call our Waukegan, IL office now: (847) 577-4476
If you or a loved one is disabled, you know that having a disability in America is expensive. The costs of doctors, treatments, and medical equipment quickly add up. Even if you have health insurance, co-pays can be high and not all treatments are covered to the extent necessary – if at all. This means many disabled individuals must either forego treatment or pay out of pocket, a difficult task when that same disability leaves them unable to work.
Federally funded public assistance programs, like SSI and Medicaid, provide a small cushion by providing a monthly income and health insurance. However, Medicaid doesn’t cover all treatment, and in 2022 the maximum monthly SSI benefit is $841. This is insufficient to even meet monthly expenses, let alone build any sort of financial cushion to pay for expected or unexpected future expenses. Worse, SSI and Medicaid have strict income and resource
If you have more than $2,000 in assets ($3,000 for married couples), you lose eligibility for these programs until you “spend down” those assets and once again fall below the resource limits. This means many disabled people find themselves living in poverty because they are unable to have savings to pay for uncovered or unexpected expenses.
These resource limits include any inheritance a disabled individual may receive from family members. Thankfully, a special needs trust for disabled adults can help maintain eligibility for needs-based public assistance while providing the disabled beneficiary access to funds to pay for uncovered expenses.
Special needs trusts, or supplemental needs trusts, circumvent the income and resource requirements imposed by needs-based public assistance programs by holding assets on behalf of the disabled adult. Unlike a traditional trust, which distributes money directly to the trust beneficiary, special needs trusts, or SNTs, purchase things for the beneficiary or pay vendors on their behalf. For example, the trust would purchase airline tickets for the beneficiary to travel to visit family rather than distributing the money for airfare for the beneficiary to purchase. This avoids the assets being considered a resource of the beneficiary and thus maintains their eligibility for assistance that has income and resource limits.
Like other areas of the law, there is a lot of legal jargon when it comes to special needs trusts. Here are some of the common terms and what they mean:
- Trustor: The person who sets up the trust.
- Trustee: The person who manages the trust and makes distributions. The disabled beneficiary should never be the trustee of a trust designed to maintain their eligibility for public assistance.
- Beneficiary: The individual on whose behalf the trust was created.
- Remainder beneficiary: The person (or persons) who inherit any assets remaining in the trust at the primary beneficiary’s death. This may be a person chosen by the trustor, or the trustor may give the trust beneficiary the power to decide who gets the trust assets at their death.
- Trust estate/trust corpus: The assets used to fund the trust. Trusts can be funded with and own almost any asset, including cash, stocks, life insurance, and even a home.
- First-party trust: Also called a self-settled trust, these are trusts set up and funded by the disabled individual. They are typically funded with the proceeds of a court settlement.
- Third-party SNT: This is a special needs trust established by a third person, such as a parent or grandparent, on behalf of the disabled individual.
- Revocable trust: A trust that the trustor can revoke at any time and for any reason.
- Irrevocable trust: A trust that can only be revoked if terms set out in the trust are met, such as the death of a beneficiary or the trust funds fall below a certain amount, or per a court order due to changed circumstances.
Benefits of Special Needs Trusts
There are numerous benefits to establishing not just a special needs trust but trusts in general. Your special needs trust lawyer can review the different types of trusts, the pros and cons of each, and which is best suited to meet your needs. Some of the benefits of special needs trusts include:
- Maintain eligibility for needs-based public assistance: This is the primary reason people seek out a special needs trust lawyer. Special needs trusts maintain the trust beneficiary’s eligibility for needs-based public assistance by using the trust’s assets to supplement their needs, not supplant For example, trust funds would only be used to pay for medical care and equipment not paid for by Medicaid or other forms of insurance.
- Control distributions: Special needs trusts allow the trustor to specify what types of things the trust can and cannot pay for during the beneficiary’s life (for example, funds can be used to send the beneficiary to law school, but not medical school) and how they should be distributed at the beneficiary’s death.
- Prevent Medicaid payback: Third-party special needs trusts protect the trust’s assets from being used to repay Medicaid at the beneficiary’s death. First-party trusts generally are not granted that same protection. That means at the beneficiary’s death, any remaining trust assets in a first-party trust will go to repay Medicaid for care provided during the beneficiary’s life and not, say, to their children.
- Avoid probate: A properly created and funded trust avoids probate, which can be a lengthy and costly process. Instead, the trust’s assets are distributed at the beneficiary’s death as outlined in the document.
Why You Should Hire a Special Needs Trust Lawyer
Creating a special needs trust is more complicated than traditional trust planning. An incorrectly drafted special needs trust can eliminate the disabled beneficiary’s eligibility for needs-based public assistance, meaning they won’t qualify for benefits until they’ve spent the entire inheritance and fall below the resource limits. The special needs planning attorneys at The Good Law Group are experienced in creating special needs trusts that will maintain the beneficiary’s eligibility for public assistance and ensure they are properly provided for during their lifetime.
If you need help creating a special needs trust for a disabled adult or yourself, call the Waukegan special needs planning attorneys at The Good Law Group at 847-577-4476. We’ll discuss your concerns and your needs and help you develop a special needs plan that’s right for you.