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Parents are increasingly raising children and grandchildren with disabilities. Several of these children and grandchildren will never be capable of working and will be dependent on government assistance programs for income, housing, and/or health care. There are limits on the income and assets that a disabled person can have before they are declared ineligible for some of these government assistance programs. Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Medi-Cal, and HUD Section 8 Housing are examples of “needs-based” government assistance programs.

Is it possible to leave assets outright to a child with special needs?

Unfortunately, no. Special needs children often receive government benefits based on their needs. Income and assets are among the factors taken into account when awarding these benefits. In the event that your child received an outright inheritance, she would be at risk of losing those benefits, which she relies on for care, health care expenses, food, and shelter.

In the past, parents and grandparents disinherited their special needs loved ones in order to preserve the child or grandchild’s need-based government assistance. It is not uncommon for parents and grandparents to leave a disabled beneficiary’s inheritance to siblings or other relatives, with the request that the money is used for their disabled loved one’s benefit. This estate planning strategy, however, has many drawbacks.

It may seem simple and easy to disinherit your child with special needs in order to ensure she maintains her public benefits after you die, but this is not a prudent choice. How would you feel if your daughter had no nest egg to supplement her public benefits when you passed away? Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid will cover some of what she needs, but there will be other things she needs. Her independence and quality of life may be compromised if she is completely disinherited.

A child with special needs may be affected by the death of a parent in a more profound way than a child without special needs, and may even have a harder time coping with the loss.

In the same way that you may have assisted them in setting up special accommodations at school or at work, you also need to ensure you can advocate for them when you go through establishing a Special Needs Trust (SNT). A little planning ahead can ease the stress and financial burden faced by most families with special needs children.

A Special Needs Trust provides the best of both worlds.

Establishing a Special Needs Trust for a beneficiary has many advantages and is a superior estate planning strategy. A protected trust holds the inheritance for a special needs child. In the event that government assistance does not cover any necessities, distributions can be made. An individual with special needs gets the best of both worlds when he or she has a Special Needs Trust. Those with special needs maintain their government assistance programs. Beneficiaries have access to funds to cover necessities and niceties not available to special needs children through government assistance.

In California, no one has more experience and expertise than us when it comes to Special Needs Trusts.

Southern California special needs estate planning attorney Dennis M. Sandoval is a proud member of the Special Needs Alliance, a national organization of estate planning attorneys who specialize in planning, drafting, and administering Special Needs Trusts. Dennis M. Sandoval is one of only nine estate planning attorneys who are members of the Special Needs Alliance and he is the only member in Riverside County, and only one of nine members in all of California. 

Dennis is also a charter member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners, a national organization working with professionals such as attorneys, financial planners, and trustees who specialize in working with families with children or grandchildren with special needs.

Get in touch with one of our Special Needs Attorneys to learn how we may be able to help

A well-planned estate plan is especially important if you are the parent, grandparent, or caregiver of a child with special needs. It is only natural that you want to plan for the day when you will not be able to provide for your child. By using a Special Needs Trust, you can ensure that the inheritance you wish to leave for your child will indeed be used for his or her care and maintenance without jeopardizing their eligibility for much-needed government assistance programs.

Southern California’s Premier Estate Planning Law Firm

When it comes to Special Needs Trusts in California, our experience and expertise is unmatched. Each of our estate plans and trusts is tailored to your specific family situation, and we will address any issues you may have. 

With thirty-plus years of experience as an estate planning law firm in Southern California, you will have the best legal minds to guide you. The trusted estate planning lawyers at Sandoval Legacy Group, A division of Holstrom Block & Parke, A Professional Law Corporation, have offices located throughout Southern California in Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties. If you have questions or concerns regarding your Special Needs Trust, estate plan, elder or tax law, or probate, contact us or give us a call at (888) 502-2881 to schedule a free one-hour consultation.