If you have a loved one with special needs, their care and health no doubt tops your list of priorities. While you’re with them, you can protect and provide for them, but perhaps a question lingers: how will they be cared for after you’re gone? Rest easy— a special needs trust can provide for your loved one, establishing funds and protocols for their medical needs, education, assistance, and overall quality of life.

Two key elements in the care of a special needs individual are Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These income-based programs can account for a large portion of a disabled person’s funds, as well as offering other benefits like training in life skills. It is therefore crucial not to leave your loved one without eligibility after your death or incapacitation. While it may seem like the simplest and most logical solution would be to leave a cash gift in your will or other estate planning documents, this monetary gift can actually make a special needs individual ineligible for income-based government benefits.

A special needs trust is designed to avoid this danger, allowing a disabled individual to have their proverbial cake and eat it too. It may seem more complicated than just leaving money, but in legal matters, specificity is key, and customizing a trust for your loved one will provide more protection and better quality of life. By choosing a reliable individual or entity as trustee (typically a professional fiduciary, like a trust company), and laying down detailed instructions for the care of the beneficiary, you lessen the possibility for funds to be misused. Moreover, the trustee manages assets on behalf of the beneficiary, so they aren’t counted as income, thereby avoiding problems with SSI and Medicaid qualification.

Because each person’s disability is unique, the trust’s customization allows you to tailor the document to your loved one’s needs. Special needs trusts can provide funding for medical expenses, education, vehicles, assistants and aids (human or animal), even money for vacations or recreational activities.

Since a special needs trust is such a flexible document, it requires consultation with an estate planning attorney. Bellah Perez offers personalized attention to your estate, taking into consideration any government program eligibility, the specific needs of the beneficiary, and the best way to maximize benefits so your special needs loved one will never be without care.


  • https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/rpte_ereport/te_lewis.authcheckdam.pdf
  • https://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/law_trends_news…

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.