Matt: Time now for Money Matters Monday. Planning for the future is hard enough, but what if your plan includes someone in your family or just a loved one with special needs? Joining us now is Brian Quinn, partner with Quinn Estate and Elder Law, LLC. Also does some work with our friends at Securus Circle of Advisors. Brian, nice to have you here this morning.
Brian: Good to be here. Thank you very much.
Matt: Boy, I can imagine you’ve been a part of some very difficult conversations with families because having a loved one, a child especially, with special needs presents its own challenges and its own adversities. Even if you conquer those, you have to think to yourself, “What happens to this person when I’m no longer able to care for them?” That’s your area of expertise.
Brian: Absolutely. And that’s the big question, too. So special needs is sort of a subset of estate planning and elder law where it may be that you have a child that’s born with something like down syndrome or autism. Could be someone is in a car accident or has a stroke. Something like that happens where suddenly government benefits are going to be very important for those individuals because they may not be able to work, they may not be able to provide themselves health insurance or some sort of income, and often times the primary caregivers will be the parents and the child may outlast the parents as far as their life expectancy.
Matt: You would kind of hope they do, right?
Matt: And yet, the parents immediately think, “What happens to this person once I’m no longer part of their lives?”
Brian: And how do you protect that quality of life that government benefits like Medicaid or SSI, food stamps, housing vouchers, those kind of things can provide to someone, but still leave them an inheritance in way where it doesn’t wipe those government benefits that often times take into account how much money you have.
Brian: Doesn’t wipe those out.
Matt: I have, in the interest of full disclosure … I have a nephew with Down’s syndrome.
Brian: Oh, wow.
Matt: One of my brother’s sons has Down’s syndrome and we almost had to have an educational seminar after that moment happened to the family where little things you would never think of, like giving that child cash for a birthday or for Christmas might not be the best idea because there can be consequences in terms of government assistance or tax liability. Things that were never even within my realm of thought before. Those are the kinds of things that you’re gonna help these folks think through, I would presume.
Brian: Yeah. And often times, a special needs trust can be really helpful, too. Because if you structure the trust correctly, it can be a way to leave an inheritance to that person and give them the quality of life, but still protect that basic level of living that government benefits would provide. So allowing the trustee maybe to pay for things as opposed to giving them cash outright. Little things like that so that they can still enjoy their life, and receive that inheritance, and the parents don’t feel like they haven’t either provided for their children or have to divide their estate unequally.
Matt: Right. And that’s uncomfortable. And another uncomfortable conversation around the kitchen table … I would imagine, not knowing the answer to this question, I would presume by the time people come see you, you’re probably thinking, “Boy, I’d wish you’d come to see me a few years earlier.”
Brian: Almost always.
Brian: Yeah. Absolutely. There’s so many things that … The sooner you can get in to see an estate planning attorney, especially one that has some special needs specialty like our firm does, the better off you are. But it’s not just the legal planning that comes up. It’s the financial planning had the tax planning like you eluded to there.
Matt: Of course. Yup.
Brian: And one thing that we try to do at the Circle of Advisors, Securus Circle of Advisors, is we try to combine that legal planning as well as the financial planning to make sure that we have good legal structure in place to give them that quality of life, that inheritance aspect, but enough money to meet their needs over the course of what their life will be.
Matt: That’s where the Circle of Advisors, a whole lot of experts under one roof, is really so helpful. Thank you for coming in. We appreciate it.
Brian: Thank you.
Matt: Good conversation. If you’d like to get in touch-