In Their Own Words – Perspectives in View: TRUSTing the Process – Special Needs Trust

Pink background image with a creative line framing the text on the image. Text "In Their Own Words Perspectives in View TRUSTin the Process: Special Needs Trust by Linda Brown, Information and Referral Specialist, Pathfinder. A red ink splatter is at the bottom right of the image and an photo of Linda Brown is on top of the splatter.

Financial planning for any family can be stressful, and planning for a child with a disability is no different, especially when you don’t have all the information. Establishing a special needs trust was a step that our family delayed due to the unknowns. When deciding when or how to set up a special needs trust, it can be quite a confusing process.

We soon realized that we needed to align ourselves with an attorney that specializes in special needs trusts. A special needs trust is a legal arrangement that allows money or property to be designated for an individual with a disability without reducing their eligibility for the public assistance disability benefits provided by Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Medicaid.

Our family was very fortunate to find Cynthia “Cindy” Gardner with Special Needs Law Center: Maurer & Gardner, PLLC. Ms. Gardner’s knowledge of financial matters for the special needs community is extensive. She was able to present all our options, make recommendations, inform us about the importance of establishing an ABLE account, explain how social security and retirement benefits are connected, and the importance of making sure all information is covered in our wills.

The single most important decision a parent can make is to establish a Special Needs Trust for their child’s future so that they can safely preserve assets that will enhance their quality of life while allowing them to remain eligible for needs-based public benefits like Medicaid (Tenncare) and SSI,said Cindy Gardner, Special Needs Law Center.

Ms. Gardner helped us to make financially sound decisions for our son. The one thing my husband and I did not think about in our prior process of planning was establishing a will for our son. So, with Ms. Gardner’s advice, we are in the process of making sure that this process is completed.

Going through this process has been monumental for our family, but it can also be a great learning experience.  A special needs trust, in our opinion, is something that every family with a special needs child should consider. It is important to have money set aside for your loved one’s future. I must admit that we do feel better by completing the necessary paperwork and planning for our son’s future. We had to just trust the process.

About the AuthorLinda Brown centered and her husband to the right and two sons to the left of her.
Linda Brown, is a wife and mother of two sons. Her youngest son, Terell, is a person with a disability for whom she fiercely advocates. Brown is an Information & Referral Coordinator for Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, a statewide information and referral program that includes a multilingual phone/email helpline and website of resources. Brown brings both professional and personal experience to the position as a former administrator with Tennessee Early Intervention Image of Linda Brown's family (Husband, wife, & son) standing in front of a sign with an image of the state of Tennessee in red with the Tennessee flag. System and Vanderbilt University, a parent of a son with a developmental disability, founder of The Arc Rutherford County, past president of The Arc TN, Board Development Committee Chair for The Arc TN and a Partners in Policymaking graduate. In her role, Brown connects individuals with disabilities, their support networks, and public/private agencies to appropriate resources and other related social services in Tennessee, provides training presentations, and assists with maintaining Pathfinder’s online directory of resources.