Special Needs Planning

People with special needs deserve a life that is full, dignified, and secure. 

Legally, they have unique needs.  At Stinson Law Firm, our combination of knowledge and compassion enables us to help.

We will be your partner in navigating through the many types of planning and benefits available.

An individual with special needs may require assistance with a number of matters from care management to public assistance, including Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, and much more.

This process can be complex.  There are many different scenarios and no single plan is right for everyone. We start by listening carefully as you tell us about your one-of-a-kind situation, then together we will create a plan that meets today’s needs as well as your needs in the future.

We can discuss such things as:


When a child turns 18, it is assumed he or she has the ability to make adult decisions.  Of course, for someone with special needs, this is often not the case.  Often, the now-adult child will continue to require assistance.  Designating a Power of Attorney or seeking a court-appointed guardian may be necessary.

Also, eligibility criteria for public benefits may change.  We can assist you to ensure your child receives all of the valuable benefits to which he or she is entitled.

Estate Planning

What happens to a special-needs child when the parents are no longer able to function as caregivers and representatives?

This is a major concern for every parent or caregiver of a child with special needs.  We can help you gain peace of mind by designing a unique estate plan that details just what will happen in case you are no longer able to provide assistance.

There are many things to consider. You may need to appoint a guardian to take your place.  You will need to decide on how much of your estate will be left to your child with special needs.  A special needs trust can ensure your child’s public benefits are maintained and any funds you leave to your child are available to provide the supplemental financial resources that you have always provided to better his or her life.

You also need to let subsequent caregivers know how to care for your child.  What are your child’s likes and dislikes, and who are their friends, medical providers, etc.?  We can help you put these instructions together.

All of this can be integrated into your estate plan to give you complete assurance that your child will be well taken care of now and long after you’re gone.

Each type of trust has specific requirements to ensure such funds held by the trust are exempt under Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other public benefits program rules.  We can assist you in creating the trust that best meets your individual needs within the requirements of the law.

Injury Settlements and Other Financial Windfalls

At times, an individual with a disability will obtain a financial windfall, such as a legal settlement, as compensation for serious injuries received. However, an outright distribution to the individual may result in the loss of valuable public benefits such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, SNAP, or housing assistance.

We work with injured individuals, their families, and their trial attorney to establish special needs trusts and other legal vehicles to protect settlement funds and permit flexible and well-planned use of such funds while maintaining public benefits.


Able Accounts

In 2015, Congress authorized certain disabled individuals to set up special accounts called “ABLE Accounts.” A qualifying individual may establish one of these accounts. Then, the individual or the individual’s family, may contribute up to the gift tax exclusion ($14,000 in 2017) annually to the account.

The account can be used for the individual’s “qualified disability expenses,” such as medical and dental care, education, employment training, housing, and transportation. The account allows a disabled individual access to cash assets in excess of the small resource allowances imposed by public benefits programs.

We can assist you to determine if you qualify for an ABLE account, assess whether such an account is right for you, and help you establish an account.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is special needs planning important?

Parents want their children to be taken care of after they die. But children with disabilities have increased financial and care needs, so ensuring their long-term welfare can be tricky. There are many different scenarios and no single plan is right for everyone. Proper planning by parents is necessary to benefit the child with a disability, including an adult child, as well as assist any siblings who may be left with the caretaking responsibility.

What benefits can someone with special needs receive?

A person with special needs may receive any and all of the following benefits: Medicaid, Social Security Disability, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, SNAP Benefits (food stamps), Temporary Aid to Needy Families, and Housing Assistance. Many of these programs require the applicant to demonstrate financial need. A special needs trust is not a countable resource for eligibility purposes for most of these needs-based programs.

What is the purpose of a special needs trust?

A special needs trust is an important component of planning for a disabled individual (even though the individual may be an adult by the time the trust is created or funded). These trusts allow a disabled beneficiary to receive inheritances, gifts, lawsuit settlements, or other funds and not lose eligibility for certain government programs, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The trusts are drafted so that the funds will not be considered to belong to the beneficiary in determining eligibility for public benefits.

Who will care for my special needs child when I am gone?

Without a well-thought out plan with clear instructions, your child could end up in the care of someone you would not want caring for them. This is why we recommend that you establish a comprehensive plan with the help of an experienced attorney. You should identify your child’s care team, create those legal documents to give the team the legal authority they need, and provide clear instruction to the team on how to use that authority.

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