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Charleston Special Needs Trusts Lawyer

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Caring and providing for a loved one with special needs can be emotionally and financially challenging. This makes careful estate planning critically important. Because some disabled individuals receive different types of public benefits -- Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare -- receiving an inheritance could jeopardize their benefit status. Ultimately, the best way to protect a disabled loved one is by establishing a special needs trust.

Wiles Law Firm is dedicated to helping families in Charleston and throughout South Carolina provide for loved ones with special needs. We have the skills and experience to design a special needs trust that will not only preserve your loved one’s eligibility for public benefits, but also enhance their well being. When you become our client, you will have peace of mind knowing your loved one will be well-cared for when you are no longer able to do so.

How does a special needs trust work?

 A special needs trust (SNT) essentially holds assets for an individual with a physical or mental disability or chronic illness. A properly structured SNT will ensure that the trust assets are not counted as resources for purposes of obtaining government benefits. Such assets include:

  • A home -- Owning a primary residence does not disqualify a loved one from receiving SSI, although the property’s value may be limited if the beneficiary only receives Medicaid.
  • A motor vehicle -- The beneficiary of an SNT is permitted to own one motor vehicle of any value and still receive SSI.
  • Home furnishings and personal effects -- There is not specific limit to the definition of personal effects, so  is unlimited, any possessions the special needs benefciary retains in the home are not counted as an asset.
  • Property essential for self-support -- Property that is used for work, either as an employee or for running a business. The value of these items is limited, however, based on a number of factors, however.
  • Assets to attain an occupational goal -- Recipients of SSI can use certain assets under the SSI PASS Program to assist with attaining an occupational goal, such as college, vocational training, or starting a business.
  • Burial and life insurance policies -- Cash surrender values less than $1,500 and burial insurance policies of any value.

It is worth noting that a properly structured SNT must be irrevocable. This means that it cannot be changed or modified during the lifetime of the person making the trust. Additionally, an SNT must include a provision stating that the trust assets are not intended to provide basic levels of support and will only be used for premissible supplemental benefits and services, including:

  • Personal care attendants
  • Educational and recreational activities
  • Out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Medications not covered by benefits
  • Insurance
  • Special dietary needs
  • Vacations

Types of Special Needs Trusts

While there are different types of SNTs, a third party trust is the most common. Here, the  assets are owned by someone other than the beneficiary, such as a parent. The assets are also managed by a trustee who is charged with fulfilling the terms of the trust. It is crucial for the individual named as trustee to be capable and reliable. Ultimately, a trustee has a fiduciary duty to always act in beneficiary’s best interest. Therefore, a trustee can be held liable for any mistakes or misconduct. 

Another type of special needs trust is a first party trust which is typically utilized when a disabled individual receives money through a legal settlement, retirement funds, life insurance proceeds or an inheritance. A properly structured first party SNT will hold these assets while preserving the special needs person’s eligibility for benefits. 

Why Choose Wiles Law Firm

Knowing that planning for a loved one with special needs is complicated, we will offer you the finest legal representation and caring, efficient service. Our attorneys routinely structure special needs trusts as past of a comprehensive estate planning strategy. Well-versed in the rules governing SNTs and the eligibility requirements for public benefits, we also provide advice on how to fund an SNT. One approach is to obtain a life insurance policy that designates the trust as the beneficiary. Regardless of the type of special need trust you are considering it is crucial to have proper guidance from a trustworthy estate planning attorney. Please contact our office as soon as possible to set up a consultation.

Wiles Law Firm, LLC helps clients with their estate planning needs in Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding areas such as West Ashley, Summerville, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and John's Island.

Information on this website is not legal advice. Further, viewing of the enclosed information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Wiles Law Firm, LLC. Matters will be handled by attorneys who primarily practice out of our office in Charleston County located at 852 Lowcountry Blvd., Ste. 101, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. M. Emerson Wiles, III is the attorney responsible for this advertisement.

Any result Wiles Law Firm, LLC may achieve on behalf of one client in one particular matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients. Please contact a South Carolina estate planning attorney or one of our attorneys with Wiles Law Firm, LLC for a consultation regarding your unique estate plan.

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852 Lowcountry Blvd., Suite 101, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
| Phone: 843-718-0232

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