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How a special needs trust may help your disabled adult child

As the parent of a child with a disability, you have a good idea of what your son or daughter needs to thrive. Now that your child is an adult, though, you may worry about continuing to provide for his or her basic needs. Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income or other needs-based programs may help.

If you are undertaking estate planning, you may want to leave property, cash or other assets to your disabled adult child. Doing so, however, may harm his or her eligibility for government assistance. Setting up a special needs trust may be the workaround you seek.

Preserve eligibility for needs-based benefits

Needs-based government programs ask applicants for financial information. If a person has too much income or other assets, he or she is not eligible for government-backed assistance.

With a special needs trust, you do not transfer ownership of your assets to your son or daughter. Instead, these items remain in trust for the benefit of your disabled child.

As a result, funds from the special needs trust typically do not count as income for the purpose of qualifying for needs-based government benefits.

Provide some important oversight

Depending on the nature of your child’s disability, you may have some concerns about money management.

When you form a special needs trust, you name a trustee to oversee the trust. This person owes a fiduciary duty to your son or daughter, mandating him or her to look out for your child’s best interests.

When you are planning your estate, setting up a special needs trust may be the right way to continue to provide for your child. Whether because of needs-based benefit eligibility or financial oversight, these trusts often improve the quality of life for disabled adults.


Christine S. Cook has earned a reputation in the legal community for her professionalism and among her clients for the care and personal attention she gives to every case.

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