When it comes to estate planning, we define "disability" or "special needs" in a very unique and client centered way.

Brothers-1633653_640 (2)A colleague recently asked me to do a blog on the definition of disability, and sent me an article that broke down the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as medical terminology and other applicable definitions.

While trying to figure out how best to write this blog article as it relates to families who have children with special needs and whether or not they need special needs planning, I realized that the definition of disability is not necessarily what we should focus on. 

In estate planning, we often talk about a special needs trust as a way to provide assets to an individual with disabilities so that they can receive the money from the family, but also be entitled to any public benefits to which they may be entitled.  For sole reason, whether the person will need public benefits in the future is more important than the definition of disability.

Although many of the public benefits programs such as SSI or Medicaid or waiver programs for individuals with disabilities will often be predicated on the fact that the individual have a disability, those will be governed by the requirements for each individual program.  Many of them use the Social Security definition of disability, but each person will ultimately need to know which program they are applying for.

In the estate planning context, we always advise people that it is better to plan for the worst case scenario, and if the individual ends up not needing the planning that was done, there are always ways for a trustee to be able to distribute money out regardless, so it is much better to be safe than sorry. 

I hope this article gave some insight into how you cannot over-plan, but you can certainly under-plan.  In a circumstance where a family has a child or adult with a disability, and there is any potential that they will be receiving public benefits in the future, it is imperative that there be a proper plan in place so as not to take any chances.

In other words, secure your future as well as your family’s future after you’re gone. 

If you have questions about planning for your loved one with special needs, contact us here by filling our our simple form.  We hope to hear from you and help get your questions answered.


jeffrey bellomo

Jeffrey R. Bellomo, Esquire is a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation under authorization of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. As the owner of Bellomo & Associates, LLC he advises families about the legal challenges facing them today. He counsels clients and provides solutions on: Asset Protection, Special Needs Trusts, Wills, Trust Design, Guardianships, Medicaid and Estate Planning & Administration. His mission is to provide professional caring service to all his clients.

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