Building a financial plan for your special needs children

When you have a special needs child, not only do you worry about how they will be cared for from a health perspective (what doctors they need, health insurance, filing for disability benefits, etc.), but you also worry about how to provide for them after you are gone.  It is not so easy for a family with a special needs child.  Whereas most parents can leave their assets outright to their adult children, parents of a special needs child need to be more careful and give more consideration to how they will leave their assets.

First and foremost, the parents need to consider how to pay for the child’s health care costs. There are resources available to help families, such as SSI (supplemental security income which is paid to someone who is disabled but has little or no income) or SSDI benefits (social security, disability insurance which is paid to someone who is disabled but has worked the requisite number of quarters and has paid social security taxes).  SSDI can be paid to a child if their parent is deceased (and worked enough quarters) and the child’s disability started before the age of 19.

But what about an adult child who may only qualify for SSI?
Can a parent leave a retirement account or life insurance proceeds for the child to take care of them?  There are so many issues to be concerned about – not wanting to disqualify the child who receives SSI (and needs the Medicaid benefits that are vital to paying for health care), not wanting the child to have direct access to the money because they could be taken advantage of, or maybe there is no one the parent can trust to help take care of the disabled child.

Some companies, such as Mass Mutual, Met Life and Merrill Lynch, have advisors who can work with families to make a financial plan.  The family should also work with an attorney who  is familiar with special needs trusts and SSI rules who can advise the parents how to set up their estate planning to ensure that the child does not lose their government benefits.

It is important to know that a special needs trust can be set-up for a disabled child to help pay for out-of-pocket expenses that insurance or Medicaid does not cover, and that the family can designate a trustee who can take over when they are gone and carry out their wishes for their child.


Attorney, Laurie Ohall, is an estate planning and special needs attorney based in Brandon, Florida, serving clients throughout Tampa Bay.  If you have a child who is developmentally disabled or has special needs , contact a special needs attorney as soon as possible to determine the legal options that are best for your family.