QUESTION: Should I disinherit my special needs child to access public benefits?
ANSWER BY RICK COURTNEY:
Many parents who have disabled children have been told or they heard or read that they need to disinherit that child so the child will qualify for Medicaid or SSI public benefits. That's a hard thing for parents to do and I tell them you don't have to do that.
It's a relief to know they don't have to disinherit that child. And the reason is there's another vehicle available to take care of a child with a disability and include them in your estate plan along with your other children, and that's a special-needs trust.
I have an adult daughter with a disability. We have included her in our estate plan by saying that we won't leave her assets directly, but we will leave her assets to a trust for her benefit.
And a special-needs trust is a trust where I will appoint the trustee will take care of the assets we want to have available for her care. And the trustee can be my wife and me while we're living. We appoint a successor trustee, another child, or a bank, or a family member who can effectively manage those assets and take care of our daughter who has the disability as for as long as she lives.
And our will or living trust would say, at our death her share of those assets from our estate go into her special-needs trust. And when it's worded properly administered properly that trust will not be counted against her for Medicaid or SSI benefits. So she can keep those benefits, have available the funds that were coming from our estate to her, just like our other children, and have them in the hands of someone we trust would take care of her as long as she needs it.