Special Needs Estate Planning


Serving Clients in Austin and the Surrounding Area

Navigating the intricate landscape of Special Needs Estate Planning requires a delicate balance between providing for the lifelong care of a child with special needs and preserving their eligibility for means-based government benefits.

Nickerson Law Group specializes in crafting comprehensive Special Needs Trusts, ensuring your loved one's inheritance is both a secure resource and a testament to your care, without compromising their access to essential benefits.

At Nickerson Law Group, we have helped hundreds of families who have a loved one with a disability. Julia Nickerson serves on the Board of Trustees of Marbridge, a nonprofit organization in Austin where 275 adults with intellectual disabilities are given unparalleled opportunities to learn and experience life.


The transition of a child with special needs into adulthood brings forth complex legal considerations, especially regarding guardianship.

Parents who have a child with special needs often assume that they will automatically continue to be the legal guardian of that child when he or she becomes an adult at age 18 and continue thereafter for the child’s entire life. Although it may be obvious to a parent that their child does not have capacity to make informed decisions, legally an adult is presumed competent unless otherwise deemed incompetent by a legal proceeding

Legal options exist that protect adults with special needs and allow someone else to make decisions. The most extensive option is a guardianship of the person, which requires filing a court case. Once appointed by a court, a legal guardian is able to make medical, educational, and care decisions for the person with special needs and decide where that person should live.

Our firm is intimately familiar with the guardianship landscape in central Texas and can help make this difficult decision as smooth as possible.


An Overview of Special Needs Estate Planning

There are several types of trusts to assist with these special planning challenges. The most common types are Support Trusts and Special Needs Trusts.

Support Trusts

These trusts mandate distributions for essential support needs such as housing, healthcare, and education. However, beneficiaries of Support Trusts are ineligible for financial aid from programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid, making them unsuitable for individuals reliant on these benefits. If your child will require SSI or Medicaid, you should avoid a Support Trust.

Special Needs Trusts

For many parents, a Special Needs Trust is the most effective way to help their child with a disability. A Special Needs Trust manages resources while also maintaining the child’s eligibility for public assistance benefits.

Special Needs Trusts are a critical component of your estate planning if you have loved ones with disabilities for whom you wish to provide after your passing. These trusts can be stand-alone entities or integrated as sub-trusts within existing living trusts, offering flexibility in planning and ensuring your legacy provides for your loved one's specific needs and circumstances.

There are two types of Special Needs Trusts:

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    Third-Party Special Needs Trust

    These are created using the assets of the parent(s) as part of an estate plan and distributed through a Will or Living Trust.

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    Self-Settled Special Needs Trust

    These are generally created by a parent, grandparent or legal guardian using the child’s assets to fund the Trust (e.g., when the child receives a settlement from a personal injury lawsuit and will require lifelong care). If assets remain in the Trust after the child’s death, a payback to the state is required, but only to the extent the child receives public assistance benefits.

Protect Your Loved Ones With Special Needs

At Nickerson Law Group, we are committed to guiding families through the complexities of Special Needs Estate Planning with professionalism, compassion, and an unwavering dedication to securing a stable and supportive future for their loved ones with special needs.

Contact us today to get started with a Special Needs Trust to support your children with special needs.

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