Friday, January 31, 2020

Special Needs Trust

It seems like the topic of special needs planning drops into my lap every 3-4 months.  Occasionally when discussing life insurance needs with a family, I'll learn that there is a special needs child in the picture. Each time the topic comes up, I learn a little more about how folks are using a mixture of community organizations, local government agencies and private funds.  Like a snowflake, all situations are different, but in many cases they can be handled nearly the same.

Let's look at an example.  A middle-aged couple has 3 kids, one of which is autistic.  While it is assumed that one of the other two kids will take responsibility for their sibling down the road, nothing is written in stone. And a myriad of things can go wrong. The siblings may not want, or be able to care for their special needs brother or sister.  Mom and Dad can care for the child up to a point but someone is going to have to care for them as they get older.  And what happens when Mom and Dad pass away?

Most importantly, special needs kids grow to become special needs adults.

A Special Needs Trust is typically the answer.  First and foremost, I highly recommend you find an attorney who has a couple of these irrevocable trusts already approved by a judge.  As an attorney friend of mine said when discussing this topic with me, "Do not let an lawyer 'practice' on your client!" Especially since the trust is "irrevocable", meaning it will nearly impossible to make changes later. 

A Special Needs Trust works like this:  The trust is established but without any money inside. The money comes from a second-to-die life insurance* policy on the parents.  The logic behind this is that if one parent dies, the surviving parent can still care for the child.  At the death of the second parent, the life insurance policy is paid to the trust which then can help support the special needs child/adult.
The key to all of this is planning.  As I stated earlier, all cases are different, however taking the time to prepare can really lessen the stress and financial burden down the road.

A second-to-die policy is usually less expensive than a traditional life insurance policy because the insurance company does not have to pay out the benefits until two people die, instead of one. Yes, both will have to go through the underwriting process, so if one of the parents is in poor health it can easily throw off the affordability factor. In my experience, most of these parents are younger and it is a non-issue.

I have learned that there is a community of special needs parents. These great people network and willingly share the resources and information they have acquired with each other. However, whenever I talk to them not all are aware of the special needs trust or may have heard bits and pieces of information. In my community of North Myrtle Beach, SC, I have tried to find local attorneys who have had special needs trusts approved by the courts (again, no practicing!) and keep them available for referral. In turn, the attorney recognizes my role in the process as well. 

If you have questions or additional information to share, please do so in the comments section, or drop us a note on our website. And feel free to book a free consultation with us to speak over the phone. As always, please stay healthy.

*We suggest a second-to-die guaranteed universal life policy.  For more information, contact us through our website at Surf Financial Brokers.  

Chris Castanes is the president of Surf Financial Brokers, helping people find affordable life and disability insurance coverage. He's also is a professional speaker helping sales people be more productive and efficient and has spoken to professional and civic organizations throughout the Southeast.

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