Establishing trusts for people with special needs

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Establishing a trust can be complicated. There's added difficulty when thinking about doing so for people with special needs.

Attorney Claudia Pringles says a special needs trust is different from a typical trust because it is the only type of trust that will protect assets from being counted as a resource for government benefits.

Pringles has a daughter with moderate to severe autism and it's how she got involved with this work. She says special needs trusts are really for people who are unable to hold on to a full-time job due to their disability. She explained why it can be so critically important.

"A few years back, I had written a special needs trust for a couple who had a son with autism and a couple of other kids. Just last week I got a phone call from the husband and he said that in the summer his wife have received a diagnosis of from the cancer and she had two to four weeks to live and he called me about 10 days after she passed away and his first question to me is, 'Is my son going to be OK?' And I was able to tell him that your son will be fine because of the special needs trust you did for him. He won't be losing benefits, so for now, take a deep breath and take good care of yourself," Pringles said.

She also says grandparents need to be particularly proactive in this process to ensure money from their estate goes to their special needs grandchildren. Watch the video for the full interview with Pringles.

Pringles is offering a free workshop on establishing these types of trusts. That workshop is scheduled for Oct. 3 in Montpelier.