Florida Special Needs Trust Lawyers
Serving Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Broward, Martin Counties, and the Surrounding Areas
If you have a special needs child or a spouse in a nursing home, our Florida Special Needs Planning lawyers can help you establish the legal framework necessary to protect your loved one.
Why is a Special Needs Trust Often Desired?
Of course you want to provide for your disabled loved one. The problem is, if you leave a lump sum to the person with special needs, your “gift” could render your loved one ineligible for vital government benefits he’d otherwise be entitled to, such as SSI or Medicaid.
What is a Special Needs Trust?
A Special Needs Trust is a type of trust used to provide for the care and welfare of an individual with special needs without negatively affecting the government benefits to which the person may be entitled. It is sometimes called a “supplemental needs trust” because the trust assets are used to supplement the benefits provided by the government.
Special Needs Trust for a Disabled Child
Generally speaking, a Special Needs Trust is a better option than leaving a lump-sum inheritance to a special needs child. The Special Needs Trust is designed so that the funds can pay for life-enhancing services the government does not ordinarily cover, while preserving the beneficiary’s eligibility for vital government benefits. These services may include special wheelchairs and other equipment, therapies, medical second opinions, travel expenses for medical appointments, vans, etc. The assets in the Trust are not available to the beneficiary. Trust assets are excluded by the government when it evaluates your loved one’s eligibility for benefits. Currently, an individual may have no more than $2,000 in assets to receive government benefits such as Medicaid and SSI.
You can fund a Special Needs Trust now, while you’re alive, or you can earmark funds through your Will or Trust that will flow into the Special Needs Trust when you’re gone. Other family members can also contribute funds to the Special Needs Trust without fear of endangering the child’s access to government benefits.
Special Needs Trust For a Disabled Spouse Receiving Medicaid or Other Government Benefits
An individual in a nursing home may lose Florida Medicaid long-term care benefits if he/she receives a lump sum of money. Florida law states that your spouse must receive 30% of your “augmented estate” whether or not the assets are probated. If you predecease your spouse, an inheritance from you may result in your spouse being dropped from the Medicaid program if the inheritance pushes his/her assets over the $2,000 threshold. Benefits would be suspended until the inheritance is completely exhausted.
Fortunately, you may leave the 30% elective share in a Special Needs Trust, thus ensuring that benefits are not interrupted.
Under Florida law, the elective share amount may be left in a Testamentary Special Needs Trust for the benefits of the institutionalized spouse, under the Last Will and Testament of the well spouse. That is why, in a Medicaid case, the Will of the “well” spouse must always be reviewed, and in most instances, revised, to include a Testamentary Special Needs Trust. This ensures that the surviving spouse does not directly receive the elective share, which if over $2,000.00, would result in a suspension of Medicaid benefits.
You may also include provisions in the trust so that when your spouse dies, any remaining trust assets pass to the beneficiaries.
The Special Needs Trust is a complex instrument and should be drafted only by a certified and experienced elder law/estate planning attorney.
We invite you to contact our firm to schedule an appointment to discuss what options may be the best for your circumstances.
We urge you to contact us to investigate the best ways to provide protection for yourself during your lifetime, and for your loved ones when you’re gone.
Learn more about our Florida Estate Planning:
- Estate Planning
- Revocable Living Trusts
- Florida Living Trust FAQs
- Florida Estate Planning for Second Marriages
- Durable Powers of Attorney
- Wealth Transfer and Tax Planning
- Probate Avoidance
- Planning for Your Minor Child
- Leaving Your Home to Heirs
- Disinheriting An Heir
- Fiduciary Services
- Federal Estate Taxes
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