Planning for a Child with Special Needs

A Special Needs Trust is a trust that can supplement the needs of a special needs beneficiary while allowing the beneficiary to maintain his or her governmental benefits, including but not limited to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security and Medi-Cal. With medical advancements, persons with disabilities are living longer and public benefits are often necessary, yet there is no guarantee that public benefits will provide adequate resources over the disabled person's lifetime, or that existing public agencies will continue to provide acceptable services and advocacy over a disabled person's lifetime.

If the special needs trust is established by you or someone other than the disabled person, and the disabled person does not have the legal right to demand trust assets, the trust is not considered a 'countable resource' for purposes of government benefits. Therefore, the special needs trust beneficiary can continue to receive public benefits even though he or she is a trust beneficiary. The trust will give the trustee the discretion to make distributions to the beneficiary to the extent possible without reducing benefits, and trust assets are available if the beneficiary no longer qualifies for governmental assistance or that assistance is no longer available. The trust assets can also be used to enrich the life of the special needs beneficiary by providing items and activities that the public benefits do not provide (e.g., movie tickets, music, hobby items, etc.).