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Attorney Randy Ratliff

Spousal Testamentary Special Needs Trusts

Estate Planning Lawyer Serving Nashville Area Families

The task of planning one’s estate can be more complicated in some situations than in others. For example, if the testator (the person making out the will) has a spouse who receives support from a governmental program such a Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), this can be a circumstance that should be considered in deciding the best estate planning tools to effectuate the testator’s desire to provide some financial assistance to his or her spouse without jeopardizing his or her receipt of government benefits. One possible way to accomplish this is by use of a spousal testamentary special needs trust. Nashville estate planning attorney Randy Ratliff is experienced in drafting many different types of trusts, each with a specific end in mind, and he will be glad to discuss your situation with you.

An important thing to note about trusts is that they can be either inter vivos (a “living trust” that goes into effect while the trustor, or person making the trust, is still living) or testamentary (not effective until after the trustor’s death). Spousal testamentary special needs trusts are, as the name suggests, testamentary trusts and, as such, do not become effective until after the trustor’s death. They are generally revocable, meaning that they can be changed, so long as the testator remains mentally competent.

Why a Spousal Testamentary Special Needs Trust Might Work for You

The exact type of trust that will be best for a given situation is often dependent upon not only the trustor’s level of wealth but also that of the intended beneficiary of the trust. If the beneficiary is on a fixed income and receives government benefits that could be terminated if he or she has more than a set amount of income per month, a “regular” testamentary trust could cause him or her to lose eligibility for future government benefits or suffer a substantial reduction in such benefits. If the trustor is wealthy enough to provide sufficient support to the beneficiary that he or she will no longer need government assistance, then this may not be a problem. If, however, the trustor has limited funds to pass on to his or her spouse, a spousal testamentary special needs trust might be an attractive option.

Such a trust can, if properly drafted and carefully administered by the trustee after the trustor’s death, allow the trustor to provide for “special needs” – which in this situation means comfort or luxury items that could not be paid for with government benefit funds – for his or her spouse. Because there are strict regulations regarding what can and cannot be paid for with a spousal testamentary special needs trust, it is important that the trustee understand the applicable law. If a spousal testamentary special needs trust sounds like something that might be desirable in your situation, you should talk to a qualified will and trust lawyer who can answer any questions that you may have, advise you of possible alternatives, and draft the appropriate documents when you are ready. Another type of trust may be a better option for other beneficiaries with different circumstances.

Seek Advice Concerning Your Estate Plan With a Nashville Attorney

In addition to a spousal testamentary special needs trust, a person who is planning his or her estate should consider other legal tools like a durable power of attorney and/or living will. While talking to a lawyer about such matters can be awkward for some individuals, it is usually far preferable to having a loved one suffer unnecessary financial hardship in the future. At the Randy Ratliff Law Offices, PLLC, we help Davidson and Williamson County families understand the challenges that their families may face in the future, as well as the best legal options for meeting these challenges head-on. If you live in Madison, Goodlettsville, Hermitage, Joelton, Antioch, Franklin, Brentwood, Nashville, Cool Springs, or any of the surrounding communities, we welcome your call. Phone us at 615-656-8282 or contact us online to set up a consultation to learn more. We also handle elder law matters, probate cases, and family law issues.