Many improvements have been made improving the quality of life for the 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States. Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has risen from age 25 in 1983 to age 60 presently. Similar improvements have also been made across the board for those living with special needs. With quality educational programs, a stimulating and supportive home environment, good health care, and positive support from friends and the community, people with Down syndrome can develop their full potential and lead fulfilling lives. However, the longer life expectancy has families dealing with issues they may not have had to deal with in the past. Considering a Special Needs Trust is a great way to overcome this obstacle.
Take the Hamiltons, they have two children. Their daughter, Dee, is a school teacher. Their son, Henry, is 20, has Down syndrome, lives with them, and volunteers in the community as he is able. The Hamiltons had a simple Estate Plan done when their children were young. But this plan doesn’t consider their children as adults, nor Henry’s special needs.
A recent review of their estate showed them that their estate is currently worth about $500,000. They also learned that leaving Henry’s inheritance to him outright may cause him to be ineligible for public assistance, which he currently receives and will likely need more of once they can no longer be his caretakers. Henry is healthy and happy, and it is their hope and expectation that he will live a long and fulfilled life, outliving his parents and the wonderful care they now provide for him. It is essential that they start planning now for the coordination of the legal, financial, and care components that will provide for the maintenance of the quality of life and dignity Henry enjoys and deserves.
One thing the Hamiltons should consider is Trust Planning. A Trust is a legal document that tells us how to manage and distribute the assets in the trust, in this case, Henry’s inheritance. The person creating or funding the Trust is the Grantor. The person who receives the benefit or on whose behalf the Trust was created is the Beneficiary. The Grantor also appoints a Trustee, which is a person or entity (such as an attorney) that will manage the Trust and distribute the Trust’s funds as directed by the Grantor in the Trust. Trusts are used for a variety of purposes in estate planning, but for Henry’s case they will need a Special Needs Trusts.
A Special Needs Trust will allow funds to be available for Henry’s care without making him ineligible for public assistance. WITHOUT this kind of planning Henry would have to spend down virtually all his inheritance before he would be eligible for public assistance and he would have no assets available for his needs not covered by such assistance.
With proper planning, including a Special Needs Trust, Henry will have access to better care and housing options, rehabilitation, training, and even funds for entertainment and hobbies, giving him the comfort and dignity he had with his parents.
If you, or someone you know would like more Special Needs Trust information, reach out to an attorney skilled in special needs planning like Attorney Kristina Vickstrom. A Special Needs Trust must comply with complex federal and state laws to be effective, and although your unique input is absolutely necessary, the document should be drafted by an experienced attorney.
Please contact us at Vickstrom Law to discuss how we can help.