Bradenton Estate Planning & Special Needs Trusts

Estate planning is hard enough when both spouses do it together. It becomes more confusing when one becomes ill or passes. What then? Your spouse has been there with you through thick and thin...your rock, the foundation upon which you've built your life. Your spouse has probably been your friend, confidant, and true partner.

If your spouse is ailing now, there are ways that you can protect them, even after you are gone. Let's say your spouse has a slowly degenerative disease, like Alzheimer's disease. Hopefully, their illness may be kept at bay. As long as you are able, you intend to care for your spouse at home. But, what if you die first? At least one study has shown that caregivers themselves often get sick or die early because of the stresses on them.

If you die first, your plan probably provides that your assets pass to your spouse. Then, without your presence, your spouse may need nursing care and would need to spend the resources you've built over a lifetime together to pay for that care. Eventually, those assets would have to be "spent down" in order to qualify for financial assistance. In that event they would have little money left for incidentals and luxuries, like birthday gifts for the grandchildren.

There is a better way. You could leave your assets to your spouse in a "Testamentary Special Needs Trust," which is a unique kind of Special Needs Trust. The assets in the Special Needs Trust may not be used for items covered by government assistance, such as medical care. However, the assets may be used for whatever costs government assistance does not cover, such as a special medical procedure, extra therapy, a private room in the hospital or nursing home, travel, an art class, birthday gifts for the grandchildren, and in some cases, even everyday living expenses.

A Special Needs Trust is a good strategy for any loved one needing substantial care. However, a Special Needs Trust for your spouse can only take effect upon your death. Further, it must be set up in a precise manner to qualify, so that the assets you leave to your spouse will not be deemed "available resources" when seeking government assistance and have to be "spent down" before the government will help with the bills.

You would do anything for your spouse. But, statistics show that you may go before your spouse. Plan now to protect and provide for your spouse, even after you are gone. A qualified estate planning and elder law attorney, one who focuses his or her practice in that area, can help you set up a plan that meets your concerns and your spouse's needs.