Special Needs Trust Lawyers in Tampa Can Safeguard Govt. Benefits While Protecting Your Assets
Living with disabilities can be a difficult endeavor, but fortunately, there are various government assistance programs that can help. Also, it’s frequently the case that family members can contribute funds — and many disabled individuals have their own assets built up. Unfortunately, these assets could potentially interfere with Medicaid eligibility and a variety of other government benefits. Without public assistance, even the most substantial “nest eggs” can quickly diminish. Fortunately, it’s possible to maintain these benefits even if assets would typically disqualify a person. A special needs trust lawyer in Tampa can help.
At Decker Legacy Law, LLC, our team of Florida asset protection attorneys understands how complex these matters can be. You may simply want to ensure a disabled loved one has everything they need, or perhaps you received a large legal settlement after becoming disabled in an accident caused by negligence. In either of these situations, it’s possible that a beneficiary’s eligibility in public assistance programs could be jeopardized. A special needs trust can help you avoid this, but it’s easy to get bogged down in legal paperwork when trying to protect assets. Contact our Tampa special needs trust attorneys for a consultation today.
What Is a Special Needs Trust?
A special needs trust (SNT) is a fiduciary and legal arrangement that grants trustees the ability to hold assets on behalf of disabled beneficiaries. A grantor is an individual who puts monies and properties into the trust, and in some situations, this person can also be the beneficiary. This may sound similar to all other trusts, but it has the unique goal of protecting a person’s ability to access government support. By using a trust to hold money and property for the beneficiary, those assets don’t actually belong to the beneficiary. This means they are not considered countable assets towards income thresholds.
For someone to qualify for a Florida special needs trust, there are several conditions that must be met:
- The beneficiary must suffer from a mental or physical impairment
- The impairment must be persistent, severe, or chronic
- Long-term care is needed due to the impairment
- There’s a chance the beneficiary may need government benefits
- The beneficiary must be younger than 65 when the trust is established
If all these conditions are met, a special needs trust attorney in Tampa can assist in setting up an SNT arrangement. Since Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other benefits often rely on remaining under certain income thresholds, this is a perfect way to protect assets for a trust beneficiary while still safeguarding them from rising medical costs and long-term care expenses. Whether you want to do this for a child, another loved one, or even yourself, the law firm of Decker Legacy Law, LLC, can assist. Contact us today to schedule your confidential consultation. Let us help your family.
What Government Benefits Can Special Needs Trusts Protect?
Whether you want to establish a special needs trust for yourself or a family member, the benefits will remain largely the same. That’s because an SNT arrangement has one goal, and that is to protect a person’s ability to qualify for government support. Even if you don’t believe certain assets will disqualify an individual, you may be surprised. The income thresholds for the most commonly used public assistance programs are typically much lower than people expect. Consider the following:
Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income provides cash payments to disabled individuals, but there are income and asset thresholds to qualify. The monthly earned income threshold is around $1,700, and the asset value threshold is about $2,000. Even if someone receives just over $900 in unearned income each month, they may be disqualified from receiving benefits. Creating a special needs trust to harbor these assets can help someone stay under the threshold and receive essential government assistance.
Nowhere are strict income limits more apparent than in the Florida Medicaid program. Income limits vary based on family size, but let’s envision a scenario where a disabled beneficiary has no one else in their household. At the beginning of 2023, the income limit for such an individual was about $18,000. This means a monthly income of just $1,500 could disqualify someone. Considering the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Florida is $1,400, it’s clear that difficulties may arise. This doesn’t leave much left over for food, utilities, and other necessities.
Other Government Assistance Programs
While Medicaid and SSI are certainly the most popular government programs utilized by disabled individuals, they’re far from the only assistance available. Unfortunately, many of these programs are income-based as well. Such programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Florida Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA), subsidized housing, no-cost internet service, and more. These actually account for just a small portion of potential assistance options, so it’s clear how important these government programs are to disabled individuals. Let our special needs trust lawyers in Tampa ensure they’re accessible.
Are There Different Types of Special Needs Trusts?
A special needs trust may seem fairly straightforward. On the surface, it looks as simple as putting money into the trust to benefit a specific individual. While this is certainly an accurate description, it’s important to note that there are several types of special needs trusts that can be established for a disabled beneficiary. However, each of these trust types will fall into one of two categories. They are:
Third-party trusts are typically established by parents and grandparents, but they can also be done by anyone who wants to leave assets to an heir. These trusts are established by someone on behalf of another individual. When building an estate plan, it’s understandable that a person may want to leave behind assets to ensure a special needs loved one is cared for. Unfortunately, doing so may inadvertently interfere with the government assistance programs they rely on. If you want to leave something behind to a disabled loved one, turn the money or property into trust assets rather than a traditional inheritance.
A self-settled special needs trust — often referred to as a first-party trust — is established by the trust beneficiary themselves. There are various types of trusts that fall into this category, but in most cases, they are considered “payback” trusts. This means any money remaining in a trust after the beneficiary’s death will be used to reimburse the Medicaid program if they utilized it during life. These trust funds are often established after someone receives a large settlement in relation to their disability, but many people set up this arrangement to protect the money they’ve earned during their lives.
Contact a Special Needs Trust Lawyer in Tampa Today
Medicaid benefits, Supplemental Security Income, and other government assistance programs are invaluable to individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, this often creates a dilemma where people feel as if they have to choose between benefits and utilizing the money remaining from settlements, inheritance, gifts, and other sources of valuable assets. In such situations, establishing a Florida special needs trust may be in your or your loved one’s best interest. If you’ve ever seen a generic trust document, however, you likely already know there are complexities involved. Let a skilled legal professional help.
At Decker Legacy Law, LLC, we assist clients with a variety of estate planning and asset protection strategies. Our experience in these areas makes us uniquely qualified to establish the ideal special needs trusts for every situation. Whether you’re looking to establish a third-party or self-settled trust, we can handle all the heavy lifting for you. There’s no need to risk your government benefits or ability to maintain assets. It really is possible to have the best of both worlds. Contact us today by calling (813) 437-4465 to schedule a confidential consultation. Let our special needs trust lawyers in Tampa maximize the resources available to you.