Welcoming a child with special needs into the family means accepting a lifetime of joys and challenges. If parents understand that the child may be dependent on them for the rest of his or her life, they carry a heavy responsibility. They also know the time may arrive when they will not be around to care for the child. This is where careful estate planning can provide important safeguards.

Pennsylvania parents of special needs children likely seek any financial means possible to assist their children with their medical and educational necessities. This may include benefits offered by the federal government, such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. These government benefits require the recipient to have less than $2,000 in assets, so leaving a special needs child an outright inheritance could seriously compromise his or her eligibility for those important federal benefits.

Instead, savvy parents investigate various trust options, such as special needs trusts and pooled disability trusts, to learn how they can provide for their children without jeopardizing their benefits. Since the trust becomes the legal owner of any assets funded to it, the child’s eligibility for benefits remains intact. The trust then provides for the child’s needs through the management of a trustee.

Pennsylvania parents interested in learning more about the benefits of special needs trusts should seek the advice of a legal professional who has extensive experience in estate planning. An attorney can assist with establishing the trust, choosing a trustee and funding assets to the trust. Having an advocate who understands the unique circumstances of a family with a special needs child can bring peace of mind for the future.