In order to ensure proper use of funds, lawyers for special needs planning in Georgia help their clients choose a trustee. This person is put in charge of the special needs trust, and instead of providing money directly to the beneficiary (the child with special needs), the trustee will usually pay directly from the trust to service providers, housing officials, etc. Some trusts are set up with the parents and the special needs planning lawyer in a way that provides payment to the trustee for taking on these responsibilities.
Sometimes, there is no mention of a fee in the trust paperwork, but the trustee is still entitled to payment, if desired. There are several factors that should go into determining an suitable fee, whether it is stipulated in advance by those creating the trust or it is later determined that one is needed. The complexity of the trust is certainly one of those considerations. If there are numerous investments that need to be managed, for example, it would be appropriate to pay the trustee for the time and expertise involved.
The types of services the trustee provides also play into determining the fee. More complex tasks, like the investment management mentioned above, would likely be paid at a higher rate than less complicated ones, such as paying monthly bills. The trustee would be responsible for tracking his or her time, along with the service, in order to determine a fair fee.
Occasionally, a trustee will pay for a good or service from personal money. When that happens, the trustee can expect to be reimbursed out of the special needs trust by providing a receipt for money spent on the beneficiary’s behalf. This type of payment is separate from the trustee’s fee and would not be treated the same. That’s because the trustee’s fee is taxed as income. On the trust’s end of things, the fee is a tax deduction.
Special needs planning lawyers in Georgia are continually looking for the best ways to serve their clients and provide for the future. Having a trustee in place is one method to ensure that funds are being used appropriately, and paying that trustee can be one way to ensure the job gets done right.
April is Autism Awareness Month, which seeks to educate the public about the needs and challenges facing those with autism spectrum disorders. Yet despite the observance, Atlanta special needs attorney Steve Worrall warns that many parents of special needs children are still in the dark as to 3 key planning steps designed to protect their child if the unthinkable happens.
Atlanta, GA – April is Autism Awareness Month in the United States.
According to AutismSpeaks.com, the disorder affects one in 110 children in the United States, with boys being four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed on the spectrum. The prevalence of autism has also increased 57 percent from 2002 to 2006, thus prompting The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to refer to autism a “national public health crisis”.
Yet while autism awareness is at an all time high, Atlanta, Georgia, special needs and estate planning lawyer Steve Worrall warns that many parents are still in the dark as to how to make sure their child is physically and financially cared for if and when death or incapacity occurs.
“As much parents of special needs children hate to think about it, there will come a time when they are physically unable—or perhaps no longer alive—to oversee their child’s care,” warns Worrall. “That’s why long-term care plans must be put in place as soon as a diagnosis is made to ensure the child always stays physically and financially protected if the unthinkable occurs,” he adds.
While Worrall does admit that the options for long-term care planning are broad and depend on the needs of the child, he explains that parents can simplify the process by starting with these 3 key planning steps:
1. Name Guardians– Worrall urges parents to immediately name short and long-term guardians who can oversee their child’s care if something unexpectedly happens to them. Without such designations in place, the child could end up in a lengthy custody battle—or worse—be placed in foster care if the unthinkable happens. Worrall advises parents to think outside the box and focus on finding someone whose love and dedication to the child closely resemble their own. Finally, parents should give copies of their designations to the guardians themselves, as well as the child’s school, babysitters and even the neighbors so everyone knows exactly who to call if a crisis strikes.
2. Set up a Special Needs Trust– A special needs trust is a legal tool that ensures a disabled child’s health care and living needs are taken care of if something happens to mom or dad. Worrall explains that while many parents have good intentions of leaving their child life insurance benefits or other assets in a will if they pass, leaving a child an inheritance outright could void their eligibility for Social Security or Medicaid in the future (which is often the only health care option available!). Instead, a trust helps to ensure that the child receives such financial benefits without actually having assets in their name—thus leaving all government benefits intact.
3. Build a Team of Support- According to Worrall, it’s never too early to begin building a team of trusted caregivers and advisors who can immediately step in and help the child if a crisis occurs. Such team members may include the child’s legal guardians, a trusted doctor, financial advisor, estate planning attorney and dedicated family or friends. Building such a team now also helps to ensure you have the right people in place, as opposed to someone who will prey upon your child’s disability in an emergency.
“Parents of special needs children must go into planning with the mindset that their child will require a lifetime of care,” says Worrall. “Fortunately, by starting with these 3 key steps, parents will make tremendous progress in ensuring their child is physically and financially cared for in their absence.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE ASK FOR OUR SPECIAL NEEDS PLANNING GUIDE AT GeorgiaSpecialNeedsLawyer.com
By: Steve Worrall, Atlanta special needs attorney
As an Atlanta special needs attorney, I’m often asked, “What exactly is a Special Needs Trust?”
For starters, a special needs trust is legal entity created to hold assets of a person with a mental or physical disability. The trust names a trustee whose job is to manage the assets and distribute them according to the provisions of the trust. There are specific limitations on the way assets can be distributed so that they do not disqualify the beneficiary from eligibility for government programs.
There are two primary types of special needs trusts. They are:
Self Settled Special Needs Trusts
In a self settled special needs trust the assets in the trust belong to the beneficiary. For example, if the person becomes disabled due to negligence of a doctor or car accident, it is possible that the beneficiary received a settlement as a result of litigation. In this case, a self settled special needs trust would be created for the beneficiary to receive and hold the settlement funds in order to preserve government benefits.
Third Party Special Needs Trusts
A third party special needs trust is created by a third party with assets that belong to the third party. For example, the parents of a child born with Down syndrome or autism might create a special needs trust for their child as a part of their overall estate plan. In the case of a third part special needs trust, family members may make lifetime gifts to the child.
Distributions for Special Needs Trusts
In order to preserve government benefits it is important to direct the trustee not to pay for services that are provided by a government agency. If done correctly, the assets in the special needs trust will not be counted as a resource. The trust must authorize distributions only for special or supplemental needs. Some examples of this might include dental care, specialized therapy, and services of a care giver. Improper distributions of a special needs trust can cause a loss in government services, so it is critical that the trust be set up and then managed properly.
Who Should Create a Special Needs Trust?
Not all Atlanta estate planning attorneys have the training, expertise or knowledge to create a special needs trust. You should consult with an attorney who is experienced in creating these trusts and who knows how to properly advise trustees.