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What is A Special Needs Trust? Does My Child Need One?

by Mary Mazzoni on June 19, 2011

It’s important to learn and take action now to plan for your child’s financial well-being.

Your son or daughter may be eligible for certain government benefits if employability is affected by disability. However, federal benefits limit the amount of money your child can inherit and save.

If your child may be eligible to receive SSI and Medicaid benefits as an adult, it’s wise to learn about special needs trusts. These specialized legal documents (sometimes called “supplemental needs trusts” ) enable funds to be held for certain future expenses – without these assets being considered countable toward eligibility for certain government benefits.

Some basic information

A basic introduction to special needs trusts, developed with funding from the Missouri Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities, can be found here.

Attorneys answer frequently asked questions about special needs trusts here.

Next steps

NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) offers a Special Needs Estate Planning Guidance System that can be used by families with any sort of special need. The Guidance System can be accessed here.

Local advocacy organizations such as the Arc here can provide valuable information about local resources for legal and financial planning for your child with a developmental disability.

The Special Needs Alliance is a national organization of attorneys that practice disability and public benefits law. You can access their site here.

The Academy of Special Needs planners offers information to help you consider the size of your child’s special needs trust here.

You may also want to visit the websites of financial planning firms that have specialized staff that focus on the unique financial planning needs of persons with developmental disabilities.  Examples include Met Life, here and Merrill Lynch here.


This post does NOT provide legal or financial planning advice, and I do not endorse the services of any specific attorney or financial planner – or any specific type of special needs trust. You’ll need to do further research and work with qualified professionals of your choice to make informed decisions about what’s right for your family.

This post links to documents that provide basic information in reader-friendly formats so that you can formulate your own questions and conduct your own research.

I derive no benefit (financial or otherwise) from any individual or organization mentioned in this post. Links are provided simply to give you a place to start in your own research and decision making.

Your turn

As you consider your child’s future financial security, you’ll want to consider special needs trusts.  You can learn much from the experiences of other parents.

If you’ve begun your own research into special needs trusts, your input is valuable to all of us!

Please share your questions and insights in the comments – so we can all benefit.

Did you find this post helpful? Please share it with others. Thanks!

Photo credit: Billy Alexander at Stockxchng

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