When news outlets recently reported that a Far Rockaway middle school student with special needs had suffered severe injuries to the head, parents throughout the area were justifiably concerned. The police who had been informed about the injuries immediately began to investigate how the damage occurred. There was no clear indication as to whether the child had been assaulted or if the injuries were the result of an accident. For parents of special needs students, the incident was one more reminder of the need to ensure that their children are properly protected.
A Mysterious Injury
Emergency services were apparently summoned to P.S. 253 on Wednesday, December 14th in response to reports of an injured student. That student turned out to be an 8-year-old boy with special needs who was later discovered to have a fractured skill and brain hemorrhage when examined at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. The police were informed about the event two days later.
The police and educators remain uncertain about how the injuries occurred. According to a statement released by the Department of Education, school personnel are working with the family to provide support services during the investigation, as officials continue to seek answers.
Special Needs Challenges
Incidents like this can create new obstacles for families with special needs students. In many instances, those student face cultural and communication barriers that can make it difficult for them to easily integrate into different school environments. Many often have special physical needs that must be addressed to prevent them from suffering the types of accidents that could lead to injuries like this. Many more have behavioral problems or cognitive difficulties that can be confusing for other students. All of that means that it’s difficult to know exactly what happened to this child, without more information.
Parents with special needs students thus face all the normal challenges every parent confronts with school-aged children, plus these added concerns that need to be addressed in an effective way. And while schools are much better at addressing their special needs student body than they were decades ago, there is no denying that more needs to be done to ensure that area children and their parents face as few obstacles as possible.
There are other less tangible risks that need to be addressed, of course, and incidents like this one remind all of us about just how fragile life and good health can be. Parents of students with special needs must be cognizant of that fragility and work to ensure that they have properly prepared for their children’s future – because the time may come when those children will no longer be able to look to their parents for help.
Estate planning experts recommend that parents of special needs children take the affirmative action needed to provide their loved ones with that protection. If you have a child with special needs, then it’s important to take steps now to ensure that you safeguard his or her future. An experienced estate planning attorney can help with that process, using special needs trusts to provide the right kind of legacy for that child.
The Special Needs Trust
Inheritance needs for children with developmental and other disabilities can be difficult to manage. In many instances, various handicaps can qualify those individuals for benefits programs operated by the government – and many of those programs are based on income and/or assets. For example, the Medicaid program can provide health insurance coverage for disabled children and adults who may not be able to afford higher-priced private insurance coverage. Often, Medicaid, SSI, and similar programs can pay for those medical costs as well as other needs.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a will bequest to cause a special needs individual to lose benefit eligibility. Since the asset and income standards used to determine that eligibility are impacted by such gifts, even a small bequest can easily cause the heir’s wealth to exceed those allowable limits. When that occurs, your heir could lose access to important financial benefits that may be covering the cost of expensive medication, treatment, or other basic medical services. And once lost, those benefits can sometimes be difficult to regain.
How the Special Needs Trust Works for Your Heir’s Benefit
A special needs trust can avoid that disastrous consequence by giving you another way to leave your loved one money and assets that can enrich his or her life. This trust can ensure that they wealth you pass on to your special needs heir is used for his or her benefit, but managed in a way that allows it to be ignored by government agencies when they calculate benefit eligibility. The trust is structured so that your heir can never directly access the funds, cannot demand that funds be spent for any purpose, and cannot use the money for services or other expenses that are typically paid for by benefits programs.
That creates a wall of separation between the heir and his inheritance that allows the money to be disregarded for benefit calculation purposes. So, the government benefits continue to pay for your heir’s medical needs and other basic services, while your trustee is charged with ensuring that trust funds are used to pay for things that the government will not: educational opportunities, household furnishings, recreational needs, vacations, and other supplemental needs.
We Can Help
There is nothing more frightening for a parent than to see his or her child injured or sick. That fear can be magnified when you’re not sure how the injury happened, or how you can plan to prevent similar injuries in the future. For parents of special needs children, the need for sound planning is something that can never be ignored. At the Law Offices of Mary A. Miller, P.C., our special needs trusts experts have the experience and expertise needed to ensure that the bequest you leave to your special needs heir enhances his or her life without interfering with vital benefit eligibility. To learn more about how we can assist you with your planning, contact us online or give us a call at (914) 939-6565 today.
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