What Every Parent Needs to Know About A Special Needs Trust in California

The purpose of a trust is to protect your money and ensure that your beneficiary receives the money they need after you have passed on. An estate planning lawyer can assist you when you make important decisions about creating a trust.

When a family member is disabled, a particular type of trust exists that attorneys can structure to accommodate those special needs. A special needs trust accounts for your loved one’s disability and offers instructions for their care, along with protecting your assets.

Here at Geisler Patterson Law, we can provide an experienced attorney to take on your case and help you create a special needs trust. We’re conveniently located in Orange County, CA, and you can reach us at (866) 452-9657 for more information about hiring an estate planning attorney.

What Does a Special Needs Trust Lawyer do?

Unlike other types of trusts, a special needs trust requires additional legal documents explaining your loved one’s disability and the kind of care they need. Special needs trusts also ensure that your loved one stays eligible for government benefits whenever possible.

Disabled adults between 18-22 are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits as long as they have less than $2,000 in assets and their income is less than their benefits. Preserving that eligibility can be challenging, but an experienced estate planning attorney will assist.

The designated trustee can use that money to buy necessary items for the beneficiary and pay caregivers. As long as the special needs trust does not pay for food or shelter, the beneficiary will continue receiving SSI benefits.

An estate planning attorney can also help you choose the trustee for your child’s or dependent’s special needs trust. The trustee will manage the finances and allocate the money to purchase items for your dependent. The trustee will need to understand which government benefits your dependent is entitled to and how to avoid reducing or eliminating those benefits.

How Do Special Needs Trusts Work?

Special needs trusts can either be created while the caregiver is still alive or after their death. While the caregiver is alive, the law calls the trust inter vivos. If the trust creation occurs after the caregiver’s death, it is known as a testamentary trust.

Some special needs trusts allow other family members to donate or supplement the trust, although many rely on funds solely from the trust creator. Self-settled special needs trusts are usually court-ordered and consist of assets that the disabled person owns.

A California estate planning attorney will likely recommend a third-party trust not funded by the beneficiary to avoid reimbursing Medi-Cal for all benefits it paid to the beneficiary during their lifetime.

California has two types of special needs trusts: the General Support Special Needs Trust and the Supplemental Care Special Needs Trust. You can create either of these trusts independent of your will or as part of your revocable living trust.

General Support Special Needs Trust

A General Support Special Needs Trust functions as the primary source of money for your disabled family member. While this type of trust may not eliminate all government benefits, it often reduces them significantly.

Supplemental Care Special Needs Trust

A Supplemental Care Special Needs Trust often utilizes language to ensure that it does not pay out resources until the government benefits have ended. This trust is helpful if your child or dependent has other needs not covered by government benefits or has unforeseen financial issues.

How Can an Estate Planning Lawyer Help?

Typically, when a child receives an inheritance, the assets immediately move under their name. While your child will receive your assets and funds, a regular inheritance includes no structure in place to limit their expenditures or direct where the money can go. The government will either reduce or eliminate your child’s or dependent’s SSI benefits entirely, depending on how much you bequeath them.

Additionally, if you leave behind a large sum, the court may order a trust for your child or dependent. Court-ordered trusts are most common when your child is legally determined to be incapable of caring for themselves. The associated court fees are often expensive and time-consuming.

An estate planning lawyer will ensure that your retirement planning goes smoothly and that your assets remain protected upon your death. If you have a life insurance policy, you will need to name your special needs trust as the beneficiary so that your child will receive your death benefit without reducing their government benefits.

With our years of experience, our team at the Geisler Patterson Law firm will assist you in planning your special needs child’s future. Special needs care is a broad term, and we will ensure oversight of your child’s individual needs.

If you have been Googling “special needs trust lawyer near me,” be sure to give us at Geisler Patterson Law in Orange County, CA, a call at (866) 452-9657. Our firm will protect your family like a mama bear protects her cubs.


Copyright© 2022. Geisler Patterson Law. All rights reserved.


The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Geisler Patterson Law
2601 Main Street, Penthouse Suite 1300
Irvine, CA 92614
(866) 452-9657