Government programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income that are available to help individuals with special needs have eligibility rules about a beneficiary’s assets. A large legal settlement or verdict could disqualify a beneficiary from certain public benefits unless proper plans are made to protect such assets. A Special Needs Trust can be used to protect a beneficiary’s assets and supplement the public benefits they receive. You may need to work with an estate planning attorney to ensure that your child’s personal injury award is protected. Attorney E. Nego Pile specializes in estate and special needs planning and often works with families to protect a disabled individual’s benefits and resources.

Understanding Special Needs Trusts and Government Support Programs

A Special Needs Trust (SNT) serves to provide additional support to someone with disabilities (the beneficiary of the trust) above and beyond what is provided through government programs. Programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid limit the income and assets available to a beneficiary. At present, SSI recipients are required to have less than $2,000 in assets, for a single person and $3,000 for a couple, excluding money in an ABLE account.

ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts are bank accounts that allow individuals with special needs to save money without jeopardizing their public benefits. In Pennsylvania, a person’s disability had to occur before they turned 26, contributions are capped at $15,000 per year (in 2019), and for individuals on SSI, their account cannot exceed $100,000.

Disabled individuals, who may have resources above the ABLE limits, may need to consider a Special Needs Trust. If the disabled individual receives an award from a personal injury lawsuit, using an SNT can be integral to protecting the individual’s monthly Medical Assistance and SSI benefits. Generally, personal injury attorneys, in collaboration with estate planning attorneys who thoroughly understand this area of law, can work with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and Social Security Administration to develop SNTs that will provide additional protection for an individual’s public benefits.

The way an SNT is drafted is critical to ensuring that the beneficiary continues to be eligible for government benefits. If your child should need the protection of an SNT, it is very important to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who knows best how to navigate the complexities this type of planning entails. E. Nego Pile is that kind of attorney.

How Pile Law Firm Can Help

Pile Law Firm assists seniors, families, persons with special needs, and other lawyers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey with comprehensive planning, life care services, and legal representation. We provide advice on whether to create an SNT, the right timing for creating an SNT, and how best to manage lawsuit settlements without significantly disrupting public benefits or compromising an individual’s eligibility for them.

If you believe a Special Needs Trust may provide the security your child needs, Nego would be pleased to discuss options with you. Contact Pile Law Firm today to begin the conversation.