Estate Planning: A Special Trust for a Special Need

Special needs trusts can help fund quality-of-life improvements for the beneficiary, such as a phone, a trip or a private room in a group care facility.

Over the shoulder view of a young female adult with down syndrome standing at a coffee shop counter ordering food and drinks.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Like many parents with a disabled child, Lisa Bamburg worried about how her son, Joel, who has severe autism, would survive when she was no longer alive to support him. Bamburg, co-owner of Insurance Advantage and LMA Financial Services in Jacksonville, Ark., knew that leaving money directly to Joel to provide for his care could jeopardize his ability to receive any help from means-tested government programs like Social Security's Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. Typically, beneficiaries of either program can only have, at most, assets of a few thousand dollars, with the specific amount varying by state. That financial help isn't nearly enough to live on. "Joel receives $700 a month from SSI. If he didn't live with me, he couldn't make it on that," says Bamburg.

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David Rodeck
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Retirement Report