Special Needs Trusts: What Every Parent or Guardian Must Know

Parents of special needs children face a wide array of challenges in their day-to-day lives. A key area that must be addressed, in preparing for the many uncertainties of life, is estate planning. These critical questions cannot be ignored and should be addressed sooner than later:

  • Who will take care of my child if I die tomorrow?
  • How will my child survive without me?
  • Will my child be financially stable once I die?
  • Will my child continue to receive government benefits if he or she inherits funds from a family relative?

Unfortunately, special needs children do face these issues when their parents have not adequately prepared and the results can be tragic. As such, it is crucial to work with an experienced Special Needs attorney to effectively address these and other issues.

One way to relieve many of these concerns raised in the above questions is to establish a "Special Needs Trust." A Special Needs Trust is established to maintain disabled beneficiaries' specific needs, lifestyles and/or future in the event the parent or guardian passes away.

With this particular Trust in place, parents can appoint an individual(s) as Trustee to manage their child's finances. This will allow the children to maintain their specific needs and continue with their lifestyle. For that matter, the children's future will be secured, offering the parents peace of mind, comfort, and hope.


  • Preserves the eligibility of the disabled beneficiary for "needs-based" government benefits, while critically simultaneously allowing for the beneficiary to benefit from trust distributions to supplement public benefits and address his or her special needs. Needs-based government benefits include:
    • Social Security Income ("SSI")
    • Medi-Cal
    • In-Home Supportive Services ("IHSS")
  • Can be used to receive inheritance funds or proceeds from a settlement on behalf of the disabled person (to avoid disqualifying from government benefits).
  • Assets in a Special Needs Trust cannot be reached by creditors.


  • Person has a developmental disability
  • Person is receiving or is eligible for government benefits (i.e., SSI, Medi-Cal, IHSS).
  • Third party wants a clause added for the disabled person.

Special Needs Trust Funds

The money in a Special Needs Trust is generally used to pay for the person's personal care, vacation, home furnishings, out-of-pocket medical/dental expenses, education, recreation, vehicle, physical rehabilitation, and other non-disqualifying assets.

Obtain Professional Guidance

This article is meant to provide a general overview of Special Needs Trusts; specific details should be considered, and it is important to discuss applicability to your specific situation. If you are a parent of a special needs child and believe a Special Needs Trust may be what you need, please contact Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC at (714) 384-6053 or weily@ocestateplanning.net and schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. We will provide you the proper guidance and advise accordingly throughout the process.

About the author:
Weily Yang is an attorney at Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC, an estate planning and probate firm in Irvine. Weily is a zealous advocate for individuals with special needs. His primary focus is special needs trusts and probate conservatorships together with estate planning, trust administration, and probate. He can be reached at weily@ocestateplanning.net.