Trust can remove some of life's uncertainties

February 17, 2011 10:00:50 AM PST
Life is full of challenges, especially for families with disabled children who are unable to be independent and need financial protection.

A special needs trust can take away some of life's uncertainties.

Joe Perez is a widower with three children. His 14-year-old son Danny has multiple disabilities.

"He's microcephaly, which is small head, small brain. He's nystagmus of the eyes, which means his eyes bounce back and forth, and visually and hearing impaired," Joe said.

Caring for Danny is 24/7. It is difficult for Joe because he is also disabled.

"Both my legs are kind of messed up," he said." Both my shoulders are messed up. "My wrist's been crushed."

He is unable to return to work, so he receives Social Security disability insurance.

The challenge for Joe is planning Danny's future in case something happens to him. This includes government benefits and inheritances.

Jerrold Zivic is an attorney who specializes in helping people with government benefits.

"I know there's a real need for people to understand how to protect their children's benefits," said Zivic. "One of our biggest problems is getting people to realize that nobody is promised tomorrow."

For Joe, a special needs trust was the answer.

Estate planning attorney Shari Shapiro says everyone should have a plan.

"If your children has public benefits, and those benefits could disappear if they inherit or are gifted money, then it's absolutely imperative that you plan for that," Shapiro said. "And people don't realize how important this special needs trust is for their families.

"This doesn't replace government benefits. The government benefits are not huge. They're not like you're ever going to live above subsistence level on government benefits, but it protects Medicaid."

"We did put up a trust where, if anything does happen to me, Danny will stay in this house," Joe said. "Someone will take over and continue on taking care of Danny."

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