One of the most identifiable estate planning documents for Maryland residents is a will. Wills are legal documents that provide instructions on how individuals want their money and assets distributed when they pass away. Because of their broad recognition and general applicability, wills are often relied on to ensure that beloved relatives are included in estate bequests.
However, wills are not always the best tools to accomplish estate planners’ goals. Particularly when a special needs relative is involved, a will bequest may make life more challenging for them than a special needs trust or other estate planning tool. This post does not provide legal advice but addresses some of the challenges that surround estate planning when a special needs relative is involved.
What is considered special needs?
Individuals who cannot work due to mental and physical disabilities may be considered special needs. Special needs individuals may lack the capacity to make decisions about their own living arrangements and care. If a person cannot live independently, they may have special needs that require intervention and support.
Why can will bequests be harmful to special needs individuals?
Often, individuals who live with special needs conditions qualify for government benefits and financial support. Their qualification for these programs is often dependent on their inability to secure financial help from work or other income sources. When a special needs individual receives a bequest from a relative through a will, the money or property that they receive may unqualify them from receiving the government benefits that they rely on to live.
What is a better option for giving to a special needs individual?
Instead of using a will, a estate planner can set up a special needs trust to provide for a specific beneficiary. The trust is managed by another party for the benefit of the special needs recipient. The special needs recipient cannot end or change the terms of the trust, and often special needs trusts terminate if they may prevent their beneficiaries from receiving government support.
Estate plans and the tools that they contain should be tailored to the needs and goals of the planners. Help from qualified estate planning lawyers can help individuals address questions related to special needs planning and other areas of concern.