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Expert Q&A

What can a parent do to ensure that their child has financial support to fall back on when they become an adult?

Dear Mr. Cohen:

We are trying to find an attorney who will help us look at financial planning for our daughter, now thirteen with learning disabilities. We need to know legal ramifications regarding “trust funds” and also what she might be eligible for through other assistance programs. We know that her potential is still “uncertain”, but we want to be able to make sure she has the financial support to fall back on as she becomes an adult.

Where can we go for this information?

Thank you in advance.


Dear Bonnie,

Children with disabilities may have entitlement to a variety of government benefits when they reach adulthood. In particular, various aspects of the Medicare and Medicaid programs provide funding to the extent that family funds are not available.

In order to minimize the potential loss or premature use of family monies, supplemental needs trusts or similar trusts can be established to supplement the funds that are available through government benefits, rather than replacing them. If the family has resources available that are not in trust, the government will typically either require that those funds be exhausted or seek reimbursement for government funds that have already been expended. Until the private funds are depleted, the individual will not be eligible for additional public benefits.

Most communities have lawyers who are experienced in estate planning. It is important to find an estate planning attorney who has the specific knowledge of the legal and tax issues surrounding individuals with disabilities and protecting the ability to access government benefits. Often, referrals for such attorneys can be obtained by contacting the local bar association.

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