According to Pew Research Center, there are approximately forty million Americans with special needs. This is about 12.6% of the population. Special needs has a very distinct legal definition by law, and the law has also evolved to ensure that families and friends are able to help special needs people carry out their lives as normally as possible. In this article, we’ll talk about the basic need-to-know information regarding special needs planning. 

What are “Special Needs?”

That question is very, very broad, and the law takes paragraph after paragraph to explain what it considers to be a special needs individual. Basically, there are two groups of people with special needs: children and adults. 

Special needs children are minors who require necessities and care that other children do not. This may be due to a physical, mental, and/or emotional disability. The state usually declares a child “special needs” for the purpose of offering them assistance and benefits to provide for the child’s well-being, which requires special attention to grow.

A special needs adult is an adult who has reached majority and has a mental, emotional, and/or physical disability. Often, these adults have carried over a developmental disability from childhood. As with children, the state designates adults as special needs for the purposes of providing benefits and assistance to help these adults maintain their well-being, as they are, to one degree or another, unable to do so in comparison to the non-special-need population.

Obviously, these definitions are not exhaustive. On paper, these definitions seem simple and somewhat understated, but caring for those with special needs is never quite so simple. 

What Can Special Needs Planning Include 

Special needs planning, such as setting up a special needs trust, provides for benefits that a beneficiary could not otherwise obtain because these aren’t covered by the government or by a private agency. These can include dental expenses, vision, special equipment, spending money, special dietary needs, and other costs that are essential to quality of life but may not be covered under social security or disability. A special needs trust allows you to provide for a special needs individual without defeating their eligibility for government assistance.

Setting Up a Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust allows you to set aside money and assets to be conferred to the special needs beneficiary at your direction. These trusts can be set up with the help of an attorney. Generally, such a trust will have a provision that will terminate it if the beneficiary would be made ineligible for government assistance as a result of the trust.

Who Can Best Benefit From Special Needs Planning 

Parents with special needs children are the main people who (aside from the beneficiaries themselves, of course) benefit from special needs planning. According to Pew Research Center, the most common disabilities are those that involve issues with independent living or walking. Over 20 million adults have “serious difficulty” walking. 13 million American adults also reported having serious cognitive impairments, while 14 million adults reported having major difficulties running errands alone. These independent living and mobility concerns mean that there are many small, niche costs and expenses that government assistance might not foresee. Therefore, providing for your child and helping them with independent or semi-independent living is one of the main reasons to set up a special needs estate plan.

Special needs is a whole field of law that consists of attorneys, educators, legislators, and advocates who fight to make sure that everyone in America is treated equally and given the same opportunities, regardless of ability. Some disabilities are visible, while others are invisible, but all special needs individuals should be cared for. Special needs planning will allow you to provide for your loved ones’ special needs after you’re gone, giving you peace of mind that they will be cared for.