Texas trusts help loved ones who have disabilities or special needs

A settlement has been reached for a survivor of the horrific automobile accident in Fort Worth, Texas last year when a teenage driver caused a series of collisions, killing four people and severely injuring 12 others. A passenger in Ethan Couch's truck was thrown from the vehicle when it overturned after colliding with pedestrians and a parked car, causing grave injuries.

The brain injuries the teen passenger sustained as a result of the accident limit his ability to do much more than blink his eyes. The lawsuit settlement includes more than $1.6 million in cash, which will fund a special needs trust created in his name, as well as two annuities that provide additional funds to the trust on a monthly basis for the rest of his life.

What is a special needs trust?

Many people are familiar with trusts, which often comprise a portion of a person's estate plan. Unlike wills, trusts can become effective while the settlor - the person for whom the estate plan is created - is still alive. Many people establish a trust to ease the probate process or provide ongoing care for minor children: the trust can last years after a parent is gone, doling out portions of the estate for a child's care and schooling until he or she attains an age established in the will.

When a settlor wishes to provide long-lasting care for a child or adult with disabilities or special needs, he or she may wish to create a special needs trust. Such a trust can provide financial resources to the designated beneficiary without jeopardizing his or her entitlement to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid benefits or other important governmental services.

In order to qualify for SSI and Medicaid, a person cannot have more than $2,000 in assets at any time. The special needs trust must be carefully drafted in order to provide financial assistance to the individual without exceeding that threshold. Additionally, a trustee must be appointed to oversee the trust assets, as the individual benefiting from the trust cannot have direct, legal access to the funds.

Setting up a special needs trust

Establishing a special needs trust in Texas requires careful and detailed legal assistance. If a trust is not correctly set up, the beneficiary may no longer be entitled to governmental benefits, causing a depletion of trust funds at a rapid rate.

If you wish to provide financial assistance to a loved one who suffers from a physical or mental disability or has special needs, consult an experienced estate planning lawyer. A knowledgeable attorney can help you set up a trust that can provide benefits to a family member without affecting his or her entitlement to SSI or Medicaid.