The California Department of Public Health has reported that two infants were recently born in California with microcephaly, as a result of the Zika virus. This particular disease, which results in infants being born with a disproportionately smaller head and intellectually disabilities, has been linked to mothers who were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant. The virus is carried by a specific breed of mosquito and is transmitted to humans who are bitten. Infants born with defects typically require special needs care.
New research reveals greater risk of birth defects
Despite the link between Zika virus infections and microcephaly in newborns, new research suggests that the risks are greater than previously believed. A child in Brazil, whose mother did not contract the virus until later in her pregnancy, showed no obvious signs of developmental delays right away. However, he did test positive for the virus in his urine, saliva and serum. By the time the child was 6-months-old, the child began to show signs of brain impairment. Based on cases like that one, researchers are beginning to fear that the Zika virus stays in the infant’s system much longer than previously thought. Unfortunately, infants born with defects from Zika virus infections will most likely need special needs care for the rest of their lives.
The Need for Special Needs Trusts
Trusts are very valuable estate planning tools that provide a way to hold and manage assets for the benefit of your loved ones. You have the opportunity to include your own instructions as to how the property should be distributed and under what circumstances. A trust is an especially valuable tool if you have a loved one with special needs. California special needs trusts are a particular type of trust used just for this purpose. If you are considering whether you need to establish a California special needs trust, here is what you need to know in order to make the decision.
What does this type of trust do?
The goal of a special needs trust is to provide a plan or set of instructions for the future care of someone with special needs or a disability. Future care needs can include medical care, general personal care, financial support, and safeguarding of government benefits. The two major components of a special needs trust are protecting eligibility for current or future government benefits and ensuring that if something happens to the primary caregiver, the beneficiary will still be provide for.
Two types of special needs trusts that serve different purposes
There are basically two types of special needs trusts and each one has a somewhat different purpose. The General Support Special Needs Trust is typically utilized as the main source of financial resources for someone with special needs. On the other hand, the Supplemental Care Special Needs Trust is seen more as a secondary source of financial resources, to be used when government benefits have been exhausted. A Supplemental Care Special Needs Trust is probably the most common type .
What does “special needs” care refer to in California?
The term “special needs” is a comprehensive term. It basically refers to medical treatment, health-care services, and other services the purpose of which are to increase the beneficiary’s quality of life. California special needs trusts can also be used to support daily living activities, respite care for the primary caregiver, living arrangements, required renovations to the beneficiary’s home, or many other things.
Who should be the trustee?
In certain cases, the person who executes the trust document (the trustor) names himself or herself as the trustee in order to maintain control over the trust property. This is because the trustor is the typically the caregiver. The trustor/caregiver must also select someone to serve as successor trustee in the event that the caregiver is no longer able to serve at any point for any reason. This need can arise for several different reasons, such as the death or incapacity of the trustee or if the trustee has to resign for any reason.
Methods for funding the trust
Usually, a trust that is used for special needs is funded by a parent or relative of that person with a disability. In situations where the trust is funded by the beneficiary’s own assets, that type of trust is referred to as a “self-settled” special needs trust. Under federal law, Medi-Cal must be reimbursed for benefits paid when the beneficiary passes away if there was a self-settled trust.
A special needs trust can also be funded as a pooled trust, which means the funds of several different beneficiaries are pooled together, managed and invested on behalf of all beneficiaries by a non-profit organization. There are certain advantages to using this type of funding method, so discuss your options with your California trust attorney.
If you have questions regarding California special needs trusts, or any other estate planning needs, contact the Northern California Center for Estate Planning and Elder Law for a consultation, either online or by calling us at (916) 437-3500.