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Special Needs Planning

Planning for a beneficiary with special needs requires extra special consideration. In California, special needs trusts are an essential element in enhancing the quality of life of a special needs individual. When properly set up, special needs trusts provide an effective way of ensuring that assets are managed for the lifetime of a special needs beneficiary, while enhancing quality of life and preserving public benefits.

Often times, a beneficiary with special needs may not have the financial acumen or capacity to manage large sums of money or an inheritance.  Furthermore, the receipt of money by a special needs beneficiary will result in the disqualification of essential public benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medi-Cal.

A special needs trust can provide for the financial management of assets intended for an individual, while preserving public benefits such as Medi-Cal and SSI.  Basically, public monetary benefits such as SSI provide a small monthly payment, intended for the bare necessities such as food and shelter. As you can imagine, these limited benefits are insufficient to provide an individual with the necessary resources that would allow them to enjoy a richer quality of life. A properly drafted special needs trust will allow a trustee to utilize the funds of the special needs trust to supplement public benefits, thereby enhancing the quality of life for a special needs individual by providing a pool of money which can be used for expenses not covered by government benefits. 

Our law firm can help you set up a special needs trust so that government benefit eligibility is preserved while at the same time providing management of assets to meet the supplemental needs of the person with a disability (those that go beyond food, shelter, and the medical benefits often provided by California's Medi-Cal Program). The special needs trust can fund those additional needs. You should be aware that funds from the special needs trust cannot be distributed directly to the disabled beneficiary. Instead, funds must be disbursed for the benefit of the special needs beneficiary (such as to third parties who provide goods and services for use and enjoyment by the disabled beneficiary).

A special needs trust can be used for a variety of life-enhancing expenditures without compromising your loved ones’ eligibility.  Special needs trusts can direct a trustee to pay for some of the following:

  • Annual check-ups at an independent medical facility
  • Attendance of religious services
  • Supplemental education and tutoring 
  • Out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses
  • Transportation (including purchase of a vehicle)
  • Maintenance of vehicles
  • Purchase materials for a hobby or recreation activity
  • Funds for trips or vacations
  • Funds for entertainment such as movies, shows or ballgames. 
  • Purchase of goods and services that add pleasure and quality to life: computers, videos, furniture, or electronics.
  • Athletic training or competitions
  • Special dietary needs
  • Personal care attendant or escort
  • Clothing
  • A residence

Special Needs Trusts are an essential component of estate planning if a disabled individual is involved.  Failure to set up a proper special needs trust can have devastating consequences to a beneficiary unable to manage his or her finances or who is reliant on public benefits such as SSI or Medi-Cal.  In fact, often times, a special needs beneficiary's medical expenses are so great that loss of Medi-Cal may mean total loss of any health coverage.


Merhab Robinson, Jackson & Clarkson assists clients in Lake Forest, CA and throughout Orange County & the Greater LA area including Irvine, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Corona Del Mar, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Dana Point, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Tustin, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods, Garden Grove and Laguna Hills.



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Our Practice Areas | Estate Planning | Estate Planning/Non-Traditional Families | Trust and Estate Litigation / Disputes | Planning for Children | Special Needs Planning | Business Succession Planning | Probate & Estate Administration | About

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