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What is a special needs trust?

If you are the parent of a special needs child in Washington, your life may well be a roller coaster of ups and downs. You rejoice in every milestone (s)he reaches and your heart breaks over the ones (s)he cannot achieve. Throughout all this, your biggest worry may be who will provide the care your child needs if and when (s)he outlives you and what resources that person will have at his or her disposal.

You may be able to relieve yourself of both of these worries by establishing a special needs trust for your child’s benefit. It can last for his or her entire lifetime, thereby ensuring that (s)he will always get the care (she) needs.

Trust assets

A special needs trust is an enforceable legal document that your attorney drafts per your instructions and which contains whatever assets you choose to place in it, including the following:

  • The money your child gets from Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, etc.
  • Any money or other assets (s)he has already inherited or will inherit in the future
  • Any money (s)he receives if (s)he, or more likely you on his or her behalf, win a lawsuit settlement or jury award
  • Any additional income-producing assets of your choice

Trust benefits and provisions

Keep in mind that your child, as trust beneficiary, does not personally own any of the assets in his or her special needs trust. The trust itself owns them. Consequently, your child remains eligible not only for his or her current state and/or federal benefits, but also any others that may become available in the future. You should be sure to list in the trust whatever subsidies your child currently receives, such as those for housing, education, employment, etc.

You can appoint yourself as the trustee of your child’s special needs trust. In this way, you can continue disbursing its assets and income for your child’s benefit just as you always did before they became trust assets. Make sure to appoint a successor trustee to take over in your stead in the event you become unable to continue managing the trust, such as due to your own illness, accident, incapacity or death. Likewise, make sure to designate the person or facility who will act as your child’s guardian and caregiver once you are not around to act in these capacities yourself.

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Mark A. Brown, P.S.
1325 4th Avenue, Suite 940
Seattle, WA 98101

Phone: 206-686-4466
Fax: 206-515-2084
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