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Ohio Special Needs Estate Planning

As the parent or guardian of a person with special needs, you have always done what you can to ensure they get the support and services they need to thrive. From working with their school on an appropriate educational plan to applying for government assistance, it’s no small task to care for someone with developmental or physical challenges. This type of care and advocacy doesn’t end once you can no longer do it. Whether by death or incapacity, there may very well come a day when you can no longer care for your loved one with special needs. That is why creating an estate plan for whatever the future holds is so important.


In estate planning, special needs is a broad category of documents and tools to protect individuals with a range of physical disabilities, medical conditions, intellectual difficulties, or emotional problems, including learning difficulties and behavioral problems. The experienced estate planning attorneys at Jarvis Law Office understand the unique challenges facing families caring for a special needs child or adult, and we will guide you through the process of protecting their future with a special needs trust.

What Your Special Needs Estate Plan Should Look Like

Because your dependent with special needs may not be able to advocate for him or herself after you are gone, it’s essential to put your wishes down in writing and to organize all relevant documents so they can be easily located in the future. It is never too soon to get this information organized and start a comprehensive estate planning process. When you sit down with our planning attorney, it will be ideal to review and discuss the following:
  • Current guardianship documents, as well as your wishes regarding naming the person or people to care for your loved one with special needs when you can’t.
  • Important legal documents, such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, medical records, prescriptions, and health insurance cards.
  • Putting a Letter of Intent in place for the future. This is a non-binding document that gives vital information about your loved one with special needs to his or her future caregivers. This will ideally include important details like your child’s sleeping preferences, eating habits and favorite foods, activities, hobbies, friends, and loved ones it’s important to maintain relationships with and other things that impact his or her routine and quality of life.
  • Copies of your own advanced health care and financial directives such as powers of attorney, living wills, and health care proxies.
  • A list of major assets such as insurance policies, investments, and bank accounts, and information about where they are located.
  • A list of government benefits your child may receive, as well as copies of completed applications and contact information for caseworkers with whom you have worked.
  • Other documentation, such as important things like housing and educational programs to assist future caregivers or even prior tax returns for your child, if applicable, is also required.
  • Copies of special needs trusts, living, or insurance trusts that may be in effect.
This file must be updated regularly to reflect changes in your loved one’s age, skills, and living situation.

Why You Should Consider A Special Needs Trust

Your special loved one is likely eligible for various government benefits to assist with their care and medical needs. They often qualify for this assistance because of their disability which can often restrict them from having any significant amount of financial assets in their name. However, if you die and leave your assets to your child, thinking you are providing the financial support they will need without you, you could potentially do more harm than good by disqualifying them from these important benefits, especially access to health insurance benefits.

By establishing a special needs trust, however, you can enhance your special child’s future quality of life without affecting their access to important benefits. In fact, you can take advantage of a special needs trust even during your lifetime. You can use money from this type of trust for your loved one to:


  • Cover out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • Pay for additional assistance in the home.
  • Purchase assistive devices that are not covered by Medicaid.
  • Cover the cost of private tutoring or other educational programs.
  • Pay for life-enhancing activities such as theme park admission, movies, athletic teams, vacations, and more.
  • Provide a depository for other individuals who love and want to benefit your special person who might otherwise do so outright and create a challenge with, or unintentionally disqualify, your special loved one from their vital programs.
Your child’s benefits are critical to their future, and we want to do everything possible to preserve those programs without interruption. Losing access to these need-based government benefits could result in lost healthcare coverage, income, transportation, and access to other programs. Putting a plan in place that maintains compliance with your loved one’s program rules helps maintain the highest quality of life and prevent major disruptions in the future.

Contact Jarvis Law Office To Get Started Today

A special needs estate planning attorney can help you plan for the future and make life better for your child with special needs now and in the future. Contact us today to talk about how we can help you. The future holds a lot of uncertainty, but your child’s care and quality of life shouldn’t have to be among them.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Special needs estate planning is a highly concentrated area of estate planning that focuses on providing for the future care of disabled individuals while preserving their eligibility for government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. At Jarvis Law Office, our experienced estate planning attorneys understand the complexities of special needs planning and can help families create comprehensive estate plans that ensure the financial security of their disabled loved ones while maximizing access to public benefits.
A special needs trust is a legal instrument designed to hold and manage assets for the benefit of a disabled individual without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits. Trust assets can be used to supplement the disabled person’s needs, such as medical or holistic care expenses, education, or recreation, that are not covered by their public benefits. By establishing a special needs trust, families can provide for the disabled individual’s future care and enhance their quality of life while still receiving necessary government benefits.
Working with elder law attorneys or estate planning attorneys with experience in special needs planning is crucial for ensuring the proper structuring and administration of a special needs plan for your loved one. This might include a special needs trust but could also involve looking at the usefulness of a STABLE or ABLE account. The attorney will help you decide which tool or tools are right for you and your special needs loved one’s future. Any attorney you are considering working with should possess the knowledge and experience necessary to navigate complex government benefit programs, understand asset limits, and create tailored estate plans that meet the unique needs of disabled individuals and their families. By engaging a professional with extensive experience in special needs trusts and other important planning options, families can have peace of mind knowing that their loved ones will be financially secure and able to access essential benefits.

Yes, a special needs trust can protect both probate and non-probate assets. Probate assets are those that are subject to the probate process upon the individual’s passing. Non-probate assets bypass probate, such as life insurance proceeds or retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries.


A properly crafted special needs plan addresses both types of assets and ensures that they are used to supplement the disabled person’s needs while preserving their eligibility for public benefits.

Possibly, but a Special Needs Trust, STABLE, and ABLE account are not tools you should think about as being interchangeable with each other. There are limitations and restrictions that are built into STABLE and ABLE accounts that do not apply to a Special Needs Trust. Deciding which is right for you and your loved one with special needs is something that an attorney with experience in special needs planning can assist you with by reviewing the pros and cons of each and assisting you in determining which is right for you and your special needs loved one.

Yes, a disabled individual can strive for financial independence while still receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration through special needs planning. Special needs trusts are designed to enhance the disabled person’s quality of life by providing supplemental resources beyond what public benefits cover.


By carefully structuring the trust, families can ensure that the disabled person’s financial independence is supported without jeopardizing their eligibility for crucial government programs, such as Medicaid and SSI. Special needs planning offers a valuable framework for achieving a balance between self-sufficiency and necessary disability assistance.

Please note that the information provided here is general in nature and should not be considered legal advice. It is recommended to consult with a special needs trust attorney from Jarvis Law Office to obtain personalized advice based on your specific circumstances.

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