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Estate Planning When You Have A Disabled Child


Estate planning in New York is essential for every adult, regardless of age, health, or socioeconomic status. It is particularly important for adults who have disabled children. When you have a disabled child who relies on you for care or for financial support, whether that child is currently a minor or an adult, your estate plan should include a Supplemental Needs Trust (SNT). By establishing a Supplemental Needs Trust, you can ensure that your disabled child will be able to qualify for certain government benefits that she or he needs while, at the same time, continuing to receive financial support from you even after your death. Our Westchester County estate planning lawyers can help.

Can I Leave Assets to My Disabled Child in a Will Instead of Establishing a Supplemental Needs Trust?

This is a common question that people ask during the estate planning process since, for many people, it might seem more sensible to leave assets to a disabled child through a will (along with any other assets that are to be passed to beneficiaries) instead of establishing a Supplemental Needs Trust. Yet this practice can be quite dangerous for a disabled child who inherits a significant sum of money or highly valued assets. Let us explain.

Whether your disabled child is currently an adult or may be nearing the age of majority, your child likely will want—and may need—to rely on government benefits for health care and for other necessities. Since many disabled children cannot work, they may also rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Both Medicaid and the SSI program are available only to lower income adults. To be clear, these are programs and benefits that a person becomes eligible for once their income and assets are below a certain amount. If you want to leave a disabled child a substantial amount of money or other assets, doing so would likely mean that the child would become ineligible for Medicaid and SSI benefits until she or he spent down the inheritance. In order to avoid this, you may be able to create a Supplemental Needs Trust under New York law.

Establishing a Supplemental Needs Trust in New York

You may be able to set up a Supplemental Needs Trust if your disabled child meets the requirements to be a beneficiary under New York law. According to the statute, SNTs can be “established for persons with severe and chronic or persistent disabilities,” which is further defined as a person for whom the following are true:

  • Intended beneficiary has a “mental illness, developmental disability, or other physical or mental impairment”;
  • Intended beneficiary’s disability “is expected to, or does, give rise to a long-term need for specialized health, mental health, developmental disabilities, social or other related services”; and
  • Intended beneficiary “may need to rely on government benefits or assistance.”

If your adult child, or another family member or person for whom you provide care, meets this definition, you may be able to set up a Supplemental Needs Trust to ensure that your intended beneficiary remains eligible for necessary government benefits while still having your financial support.

Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer in Pleasantville

If you need help setting up a trust, our Westchester County estate planning lawyers can help. Contact Meyer & Spencer, PC to learn more.



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