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Special Needs

By Craig A. Max IV, JD/CPA, TEP

Protecting our children is one of the biggest responsibilities of parenthood. For most parents, that responsibility necessitates that they put some basic estate planning into place to provide for and protect their children should anything ever happen before their children reach independence. Responsible planning for our children that have special needs, however, requires more effort and expertise.

Going into 2011, parents considering special needs trusts for their children face an increasingly complicated tax and public assistance regulatory system on the federal and state level: health care reform, tax reform, and changes in our educational systems can all impact how we plan to protect our children. Your family or business attorney, however well meaning, might not be in the best position to prepare a plan for children that may need extra care.

When considering an attorney to draft a special needs trust for your children, some questions to ask include: (1) what experience do they have with special needs trusts? (2) can they explain how the trust will protect your children if they need state assistance? (3) what happens to the trust if the laws change? (4) what are the tax ramifications at funding and on-going for the trust?

Make sure you are comfortable with those answers. Parents will greatly benefit from the experience of counsel that specializes in the special needs area and is up to date on the changes that have just been made and those that are scheduled to come into effect in the next few years. In the end, it is you and your family that will have to live with the trust, not the drafting attorney; ultimately, you might not be around to enforce the trust, so it is very important it is setup correctly.

Craig Max IV is an Attorney and Certified Public Accountant with the Tax and Estate Planning Group of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. ( in Fredericksburg and Manassas.

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