Commonly Asked Estate Planning Questions- Day One

October 17, 2017
Lindsay M. Schoeneberger

What is a Special Needs Trust and why would I need one?

A Special Needs Trust is a device that allows for those receiving public benefits for a disability to still be able to enjoy the benefit of inheritance, gifts, or other transfers of wealth.  Typically in order to receive Medical Assistance or Supplemental Security Income, a person must have less than $2,000.00 in assets.  So imagine this – you have three children, one of whom receives benefits due to a disability, making that child an equal beneficiary of your estate could disqualify the child from his or her benefits, which could be catastrophic depending on the nature of the benefits.  Without a special needs trust, your options are limited.  You either disinherit your child or you cause them to lose their benefits.  With a special needs trust, you can now treat them equally under your Will and allow them to maintain his or her benefits.  Special Needs Trusts are very technical and have various requirements that need to be followed.  If you or a family member believe a special needs trust is necessary, you should consult an experienced estate planning attorney.

Where should I keep my estate planning documents?

The short answer is “In a safe place!”  In my office when you execute your estate planning documents, we ask you to sign five (yes 5!) original healthcare powers of attorney and five original financial powers of attorney.  We send you home with four of each and retain one original for our file.  We do this so that you have multiple originals since some institutions require an original.  We retain an original because sometimes clients lose their copies, but more often, Agents know they have been appointed to act, but don’t have the documents.  Or they cannot access the documents without having the documents.  Imagine you keep all of your originals in your safe deposit box and have an accident.  Your agent knows that is where your documents are, but you made no provisions for them to be able to access them.  This is where our original can help.

The Will is a different story.  We only have you sign ONE Will so there is no question as to which is the original.  An original Will is generally needed for probate.  You can revoke a Will by destroying it.  You don’t want to have multiple originals to keep track of, especially when you want to revoke it by destruction.  I advise clients to keep the Will in a fire proof safe, safe deposit box, or keep the document with my office.  We offer to hold each client’s Will free of charge.  I highly recommend this last option because you always know where it is, that it is protected from accidental destruction, and it is kept away from those with less than pure motives.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning.