Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 6, 2020

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Let’s face it; most of us don’t really understand the differences between the various types of trusts that can be created for estate planning purposes. The special needs trust, in particular, can be a valuable estate planning tool. Unfortunately, legal experts say that it is a tool that is often misunderstood. An experienced special needs trust attorney can put it all in perspective.

Planning for the long term care of disabled loved ones in Florida

An experienced special needs trust attorney can not only explain the differences between the various types of trusts, but can advise you on what might be best for your situation. Sarah E. Peart, an attorney from Tampa Florida whose practice focuses mainly in the areas of wills, trusts, estate planning and real estate law, explained when and why someone should contact a special needs trust attorney:

Parents, grandparents and legal guardians should contact a special needs trust attorney when they want to plan for the long term care of their disabled loved ones. Often, special needs trust attorneys are contacted when a person qualifying as disabled is about to receive an inheritance or settlement or large amount of money from elsewhere.

The special needs trust can also be court ordered. So, say the parents of a disabled individual die and they don’t have any provisions for a special needs trust, the probate court can actually order a special needs trust to be created for the benefit of that disabled person. You don’t want to leave it to last resort though. You certainly want to plan the estate before anything happens.

Why experience matters

A special needs trust is not a very common estate planning tool and can be quite complex. Peart told us, “Many attorneys don’t have the necessary experience to create a special needs trust even though they may have plenty of general estate planning experience. It’s just not that common. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that an attorney has experience actually drafting these special needs trusts because a poorly drafted or invalid special needs trust would have very severe ramifications on a disabled individual’s health, welfare and financial stability. A special needs trust attorney must be very familiar with applicable state and federal laws because there are many regulations and requirements for a valid exempt trust.”

The importance of exploring options

Peart says that it’s important to explore all of your options. She told us, “It’s important [for an attorney] to have an in depth conversation with [clients] about what exactly they’re expecting and then discuss all of their options. I offer free consultations for everyone to come in and discuss their estate planning needs and I tailor each plan specifically to the client and the client’s family.”

If you think a special needs trust might be right for your situation, contact an experienced Florida trusts attorney to evaluate your options.