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Planning for Beneficiaries with Disabilities

Planning for Beneficiaries with Disabilities

Estate planning is important for all families to ensure that an individual’s wishes are honored after they pass away. When the guardian of a person with disabilities or primary caretaker is making arrangements for their own planning, it’s ideal and necessary to answer several questions regarding the person under their care.

  • Who will take care of my loved one day-to-day when I pass away?
  • Who will manage assets I leave to my loved one?What can I do to make the transition smooth after my death?
  • Planning for a loved one with disabilities requires particular attention to detail. The following should be considered and addressed through proper planning.

Naming a Guardian

A guardian of the person is the person who will be responsible for the disabled person’s wellbeing and day-to-day care. A guardian of the estate will be responsible for any money that would typically be held in the individual person’s name (not funds allocated to a trust). General guardian is the term used for a person serving as both guardian of the person and guardian of the estate.

It’s ideal to name a primary guardian and at least one backup guardian in case your primary guardian is unable to serve. You should also consider the age of the person you appoint and consider naming a backup who has a similar or longer life expectancy as the disabled person.

Special Needs Trust

A Special Needs Trust (“SNT”) can be utilized to hold assets for the benefit of the beneficiary while still allowing them to remain or become eligible for government assistance programs such as North Carolina Special Assistance, Medicaid, or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Assets held in a SNT are not counted against a beneficiary when their assets and income are calculated for government assistance eligibility. A properly structured SNT would allow a beneficiary to have their basic housing, food, and medical needs met by government programs, while preserving assets in the SNT for supplemental needs such as education, recreation, therapy, and specialized care and equipment.


Family members and friends may have good intentions when planning to gift money to loved ones, however, gifting to a person who is a recipient of government assistance programs can cause them to become ineligible for assistance if not done properly. An estate planning attorney should be consulted prior to making gifts to or accepting gifts on behalf of a person who is a recipient of government assistance.

Ensuring a loved one is cared for after a primary caregiver passes away is top priority of many of our clients. Our goal is to provide a seamless transition for your loved one through proper planning.

James E. Hickmon PA, North Carolina Estate Planning & Fiduciary Law Site Icon


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