The Importance of Guardianship and Special Needs Trusts

Securing a smooth financial future can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. But when you or one of your loved ones must also deal with special medical or life needs, the situation may prove especially worrying and difficult. Fortunately, you may be able to take advantage of helpful legal strategies such as guardianships and special needs trusts. Let’s take a high-level look at these essential forms of protection, the various forms they may take, and how they might help your family.

How Does Guardianship Work?

Guardianships give specific friends, family members, or organizations the legal authority to make medical and financial decisions for individuals who are unable to do so. They apply to adults who are mentally or physically incapacitated and thus cannot assign power of attorney themselves. (An elderly guardianship for a senior citizen with Alzheimer’s disease is a typical example.) While guardianships can do much to assist those in need, they can also fall prey to misuse of funds and family disputes. They also do nothing to preserve the individual’s financial eligibility for much-needed public services.

What Is a Special Needs Trust?

A special needs trust provides extra protection for individuals who may need access to a lifetime of public benefits, such as children with disabilities. You can create a special needs trust for yourself if you’re under 65 (a “first-person” trust), or you may create one for someone else in your life (a “third-party” trust). Placing assets in a special needs trust can shield them from the means testing used to determine Medicaid and SSI eligibility. It can also help to ensure that those assets are managed by a skilled, knowledgable trustee.

Our legal team can assist you in determining the most sensible strategy for your situation. Contact us to schedule a consultation.