Special Needs Planning

Did you know that nearly one in five people in the United States has a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau? Many of these individuals require specialized financial and legal planning to secure their future. This is called special needs planning.


Special needs planning is not just about setting up a trust or writing a will. It’s about creating a comprehensive strategy tailored to meet the unique needs and challenges of a person with disabilities. In this article, we’ll show you the important steps in special needs planning.


Attorney William C. Roof can give you the legal help you need to figure out your family’s special needs planning.

What is Included in Special Needs Planning?

Special Needs Planning is your roadmap to ensuring a secure and fulfilling life for your loved one with special needs. Let’s break down what this planning typically includes so you can get a clearer picture.


  1. Financial Planning: It’s vital to plan financially for the future to ensure that your loved one has the necessary funds for their care and support throughout their lifetime. This includes understanding and accessing government benefits that the child or adult may be entitled to.
  1. Legal Planning: This involves using legal instruments to protect the person’s interests and assets. Some of these legal tools include:
    • Advance Directives: Documents that specify what actions should be taken for the person’s healthcare if they are unable to make decisions for themselves.
    • ABLE Accounts: These are tax-advantaged savings accounts that allow families to save for disability-related expenses without affecting the individual’s eligibility for government programs.
    • Guardianship or Conservatorship: This grants legal authority to a designated person to make crucial life decisions for the individual who is unable to make such choices independently. This includes matters related to health, education, and general well-being.
    • Powers of Attorney: Legal documents that allow a person to appoint someone else to manage their financial or medical decisions.
    • Trusts: Specifically, Special Needs Trusts are set up to ensure that the child has funds for their needs without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits.
    • Wills: Legal documents that specify how a person’s assets should be distributed after their death and who will take care of their child.

Each family’s situation is unique, so it’s advisable to consult with a special needs planning attorney like us to create a comprehensive plan tailored to meet the family’s specific needs and the child’s individual circumstances.

Why Do We Need to Plan for Special Needs?

Planning for special needs is really important. Families with special needs members have extra challenges that go beyond normal family stress. If you don’t plan well, you could risk not only money problems but also make life harder for your family member.

Problems You Might Face

    • Financial Strain: The cost of specialized care, medical treatments, and educational services can quickly add up. Without a structured plan, families often find themselves draining their savings or plunging into debt.
    • Loss of Benefits: Many government aid programs have strict financial criteria. Accumulating assets beyond a certain limit can disqualify your loved one from receiving essential benefits like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
    • Legal Vulnerability: Without the proper legal documents in place, you risk leaving your loved one unprotected. Who will make medical decisions for them if you’re unable to? What happens to them if you’re not around?

How A Special Needs Planning Attorney Can Help

A good plan, like a Special Needs Trust, can help you pay for the ongoing and future costs for your family member, like healthcare and a place to live. Through specialized trusts and other financial tools, you can ensure that your loved one remains eligible for government aid. And, with things like power of attorney and advance directives, ensure that your loved one’s rights and interests are legally protected, providing clear guidelines for their care and decision-making.

When is a Special Needs Trust is Needed?

A Special Needs Trust is not just a “nice-to-have”; in many cases, it’s a necessity. But when does it become crucial? Here are some key situations:


  • Eligibility for Government Benefits: If your loved one relies on government aid like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), having assets over a certain limit could disqualify them from these benefits. A Special Needs Trust allows you to set aside funds for their care without affecting eligibility.
  • Inheritance and Gifts: Receiving a large sum of money or property directly can jeopardize a special needs individual’s access to public assistance. By directing these assets into a trust, you secure their financial future and benefits.
  • Lawsuit Settlements: If your loved one receives a legal settlement, placing the funds in a Special Needs Trust ensures that the money is used for their well-being without disrupting any government aid.
  • Financial Planning for Siblings: Parents often worry about the financial burden placed on siblings who may assume caregiving roles. A trust provides a structured way to finance long-term care needs.

Benefits Of A Special Needs Trust

A Special Needs Trust is crucial in ensuring the financial security of a disabled individual. Here are some benefits of having one:


  • Preservation of Benefits: It helps in retaining eligibility for government assistance like Medicaid or SSI, as assets in the trust aren’t counted.
  • Management of Assets: It provides a structured way of managing and protecting funds for the beneficiary’s needs.
  • Flexible Spending: Special Needs Trust allows for a wide range of expenditures benefiting the individual, such as education, healthcare, and recreation.
  • Future Planning: Special Needs Trust can house inheritance or lawsuit proceeds, ensuring these funds don’t jeopardize benefit eligibility.​
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing that your  loved one has a secure financial future can relieve a significant emotional and mental burden on family members.

Frequently Asked Questions: Special Needs Planning Attorneys

What constitutes special needs?

“Special needs” refers to an individual’s requirements in order to function due to disabilities, medical, mental, or psychological conditions. It encompasses a wide range of physical disabilities, medical conditions, intellectual difficulties, or emotional problems including learning difficulties and behavioral problems​.

What is the purpose of a special needs trust?

A special needs trust aims to provide financial security to individuals with special needs without affecting their eligibility for government benefits. It supplements government benefits, covering costs that these benefits do not, while preserving the beneficiary’s eligibility for essential needs-based government services like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)​

When should I start special needs planning?

It’s advisable to start special needs planning as early as possible. Ideally, you should begin when your loved one is still young to create a comprehensive plan that can adapt to their changing needs over time.

Who needs special needs planning?

Special needs planning is essential for families with a disabled child or disabled family member who may require long-term care and support.

What does special needs planning involve?

Special needs planning involves creating a comprehensive strategy to address the unique requirements of your disabled loved one. This can include setting up a special needs trust, understanding Medicaid and other government benefits, considering long-term care options, and establishing legal documents like powers of attorney and healthcare proxies.

Who is special needs planning not right for?

Special needs planning may not be suitable for individuals who do not need to preserve eligibility for certain government benefits. However, the specifics can vary, and it’s advisable to consult with an attorney to understand individual circumstances.​

Do I Only need to create a special needs trust?

While a special needs trust is a crucial component of special needs planning, the process typically involves more than just establishing the trust. It also involves understanding and optimizing government benefits, considering long-term care, and addressing legal and financial aspects.

What are the benefits of special needs planning?

Special needs planning helps by ensuring the financial security, care, and well-being of individuals with special needs. It aids in preserving eligibility for essential government benefits while providing additional financial resources, ensuring proper care, and improving the quality of life of individuals with special needs.

Do I need a lawyer for special needs planning?

Consulting with an estate planning attorney can help you navigate the complex legal and financial aspects involved in creating a special needs trust and ensure that your plan aligns with your loved one’s best interests and government benefit eligibility.

Why You Should Call a Special Needs Planning Lawyer Today

Planning for the future of a loved one with special needs can be tough and confusing. There’s a lot to know, and the rules keep changing. That’s why having a good lawyer by your side can make all the difference. A special needs planning lawyer knows the ins and outs of how to set up a plan that works best for your family.

Don’t Wait for “Someday.”

The best time to start planning is now. The sooner you start, the better you can make life for your loved one. Waiting too long can make things harder down the line.


Want to make sure your loved one is taken care of, no matter what? Get in touch with William C. Roof. With the right help, you can make a plan that takes the worry off your shoulders.

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The contents of this article are not comprehensive, they provide only a general overview of the subject matter discussed. This article does not establish a client-attorney relationship with the reader, and no legal decisions should be made based on the article’s contents. Because every legal matter arises under unique facts specific to the client, no legal decision should be made without consulting a licensed attorney.

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