Those who help care for a child or other individual with special needs often want to provide financial assistance for clothing and other living expenses. If you are in this situation, you want your loved one to have a comfortable standard of living, both now and when you are no longer here to care for them.

It is important, however, to be careful how you accomplish this. Providing financial assistance to someone with special needs may disqualify that person from receiving government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid.

The estate planning attorneys at Leisawitz Heller in Wyomissing help clients create and fund both special needs trusts (funded with assets owned by the person with the disability) and supplemental needs trusts (funded with assets owned by family members). These trusts provide financial support for certain expenses without jeopardizing the recipient's eligibility for government benefits. Instead of giving money directly to the individual, you fund the trust. A trustee — someone other than the beneficiary — manages the trust's funds.

Our estate planning lawyers also help establish guardianship for individuals with disabilities who are unable to handle their own finances and direct their own care. A legal guardian is allowed to make decisions regarding daily care and financial matters for someone who is unable to do so independently.

What Expenses Can You Help Pay?

There are regulations on the amount of "countable assets" — savings, investments, real estate, etc. — that a beneficiary may own in his or her name. For example, a beneficiary with more than $2,000 in countable assets is not eligible to receive SSI. It is important to adhere to these restrictions in order to maintain eligibility for government benefits.

We will help you navigate these restrictions and make full use of a special insert or supplemental needs trust in order to enhance the life of your loved one. Supplemental needs trusts can be used to pay for a variety of life expenditures, including:

  • Supplemental education and tutoring
  • A personal attendant or assistant
  • Transportation or vehicle maintenance
  • Checkups and other medical treatment from an independent medical provider
  • Travel or vacations
  • Materials for a hobby or recreational activity
  • Costs of entertainment
  • Goods that provide pleasure to life such as consumer electronics, furniture and exercise equipment

You Can Rely On Our Knowledgeable Guidance

We can answer your questions about securing the financial well-being of a family member with disabilities and recommend the best course of action during a consultation. Call or email us to schedule an appointment. We have been helping families in Greater Reading and throughout southeastern Pennsylvania for more than five decades.