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Do You Need a Special Needs Trust in Your Pocatello Estate Planning?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Many people have heard of trusts, and some people might even have family members or other loved ones they know who have a trust as part of their estate planning. However, most people have no idea what a Special Needs Trust is or how it might help them and their family as a part of their estate planning. We understand this. We don't expect our clients to be experts at estate planning. Often when we have clients come to us, they know they need estate planning to be done, but they don't really know what those needs exactly are or how to meet them.

We have developed an Estate Planning Questionnaire as a tool our clients can use to help them understand what estate planning is and what they might personally need in their own estate plan. This questionnaire provides easy steps for our clients to follow in compiling information they will need to complete their own estate planning. Additionally, it provides information about each aspect of estate planning that a client might need. This would include the use of a Special Needs Trust as part of their estate planning.

Once we have the estate planning questionnaire filled out and returned to us by our clients, our team of Idaho estate planning attorneys then use this information to further consult with our clients to help create a customized estate plan for them. The Racine Office team of Pocatello estate planning attorneys consists of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorney Dave Bagley. Our attorneys have each earned the highest rankings possible based upon their experience, knowledge, abilities and ethics from the several notable legal rating services including AVVO, Martindale & Hubbell and Justia. More importantly, our team of attorneys have the skill and experience to help you.

When it comes to knowing whether a Special Needs Trust should be part of your Pocatello estate planning, here are three specific questions with detailed answers that will help you understand what a Special Needs Trust is and how it could be helpful.

Do I Need a Special Needs Trust?

The best place to start is to understand whether you might need a Special Needs Trust as part of your customized estate planning. Knowing whether you do or don't is actually quite simple. If you plan to give any money, property, or assets from your estate after you pass away to a child or a loved one who has a handicap or disability then it is likely that you would need a Special Needs Trust as part of your estate planning. In this instance it really doesn't matter whether the person you are leaving these items to is a minor or not. Because age is not a factor there is other considerations that you need that will help you determine whether a Special Needs Trust should be used.

The number one guide for you in knowing whether a Special Needs Trust could be useful is whether a legal guardian is already or will need to be named for your child or loved one due to their disability or handicap. If the person is a minor, which means they are under the age of 18, there is no need for a guardianship to be appointed. However, after the person becomes 18 or older, if a legal guardianship will be required because of their disability or handicap, then a Special Needs Trust should be created and used to provide benefits to them.

So the real question here is whether a guardianship has already been created, or will be needed later in the life of the child or loved one you want to leave your money, property, or assets to after you pass away. If a guardianship is needed then it is likely that a Special Needs Trust should be used.

How Does a Special Needs Trust Work?

Usually when it becomes clear that a client I am helping needs a Special Needs Trust for a family member or loved one the next question usually is how does a Special Needs Trust work? The specific goal of a Special Needs Trust is to protect any benefits that your family member or loved one is already receiving, or may qualify for that are offered by local, state, or federal government programs. In order to maintain these benefits, these programs usually require that your child or loved one have a very limited amount of money and assets in their own name.

When a Special Needs Trust is used, you are able to deposit money, or other property and assets into the trust that can be used for the benefit of your child or loved one without jeopardizing the benefits that they are already receiving. The way this works is that the trust is the owner of these items and not your child or loved one. As a result, your child or loved then would still qualify for the benefits under those government programs.

Someone else is named as the trustee of the trust in order to care for and protect the money or assets that are deposited into the Special Needs Trust for your child or loved one. This person can assess any additional needs that your child or loved one has and can provide benefits to them without giving money or assets directly to them which would disqualify them for the programs and benefits they are already receiving.

The real key to make this work is the limiting language that is in the Special Needs Trust. Having created many of these, our team of Pocatello estate planning attorneys are skilled at experienced in the use of a Special Needs Trust as part of estate planning. We are confident that we can answer your questions and can help you as well.

How is a Special Needs Trust Created?

The final question most people ask us is how a Special Needs Trust is created. Like any trust, there must be a trust document that sets forth the terms of the trust, who the beneficiary of the trust is, and what property and were money and assets are contained in the trust. Most importantly, as was mentioned above, the trust must contain limiting language so that the government benefits programs your child or a loved one may already be benefiting from or not jeopardized. This language provide specific restrictions on the trustee, and distributions from the trust, to make sure that your child or loved one will receive any benefits they qualify for.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

If you have questions or concerns about whether a Special Needs Trust might be useful as part of your estate planning, we encourage you to look over the estate planning questionnaire we offer to our clients. We also offer a initial consultation to discuss these things with you and to answer all of your questions. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation. You can also email us directly at We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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