daniel best picThis week’s question: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SPECIAL NEEDS TRUSTS.

QUESTION:  My disabled niece is receiving government benefits.  I want to give her some money, but I have been told that if she has too much money in her accounts she will lose her benefits.  I don’t want to jeopardize my niece’s benefits.  What should I do?

ANSWER:  Stop; before you give your niece a gift of money, you must first find out a few very important things.  First, you need to find out what type of benefits your niece is receiving from the government.  Some benefits such as Social Security and Medicaid benefits have strict income limits.  If you give your niece money and she exceeds those limits, she will jeopardize her government benefits.  You also need to know if your niece already has a special needs trust.  If she does, that is likely the best place to put the money.  If she does not have a special needs trust, then the family should explore setting one up for her.

A special needs trust is a vehicle that families of disabled people can use to help provide for things that will help to improve their lives.  Examples of expenses that can be paid from a special needs trust include: transportation costs; personal assistants; therapy not covered by insurance or other governmental benefits, travel expenses, internet, cable television, telephone, and other recreational and entertainment expenses.

There are several different types of special needs trusts.  It is very important that the special needs trust be drafted carefully so that it meets all of the legal requirements necessary to ensure that the disabled person retains his or her government benefits.  You also want to make sure that it meets the disabled person’s needs. Contact an experienced attorney to learn more about the options available for special needs trusts.


The lawyers at GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at

By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 247-3300
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