Special Needs Planning

If you have a child or a loved one who is disabled or unable to care for themself or manage their financial affairs, planning for their future may be one of the most important decisions you make. Failure to plan for a special needs beneficiary can result in a loss of government benefits and significant increased risks of exploitation. There is no guarantee that public benefits will provide adequate resources over your beneficiary’s lifetime, or that existing public agencies will continue to provide acceptable services and advocacy. A properly drafted special needs trust, also known as a supplemental needs trust (we like to use the term “Discretionary Trust”) may provide for supplemental assistance to your special needs beneficiary without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security and Medicaid, and often more importantly provides instructions for care coordination.

We can assist in designing a discretionary trust that provides for your beneficiary’s supplemental needs, such as medical and dental care, therapies, residential needs, special equipment, social needs, education and training that may not be covered by governmental benefits. Our trusts can facilitate active involvement by important family members, professionals, advocates, and care managers. We can also help you choose appropriate Trustees to see that your beneficiary is cared for and reduce the stress imposed on siblings and other family members. A document alone does not protect an individual; the planning provisions of care management, tax planning, and advocacy are the key elements of planning for a good quality of life for our vulnerable loved ones.

Central goals concerning assets in these trusts include a balance between directing that the assets get used for the disabled person’s benefit, while preserving assets for the person’s future needs, and preserving assets for any future beneficiaries.

Important provisions to consider in a Special Needs Trust:

  • Describing the Trust purpose;
  • Distribution guidelines;
  • Home ownership;
  • Appointment of Trustees;
  • Trustee Powers;
  • Using a Personal Advisor;
  • Using a Care Manager;
  • Care Management guidelines;
  • Relocation;
  • Funding the Trust;
  • Accountings; and
  • Trust Termination.
  • Governing Law

For information on how to get started on your estate plan visit our Estate Planning Process page.


We were very pleased with the level of expertise available at Davis Schilken. It enabled us to feel confident that we were presented all options. The process was efficient and allowed us to complete our estate planning effectively and efficiently. - W&L R.
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