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If you have a child with special needs, you should talk to extended family members who may be intending to make a gift or bequest. Extended family members may have your child’s best interests at heart, but they may be unaware that the money they leave to your child could jeopardize eligibility for government benefits. For example, while grandparents may wish to leave part of their estate to a grandchild with special needs, receipt of such funds could disqualify the child for Medicaid, SSI, and other government programs that are key to the child’s quality of life. Any gifts or bequests intended for the child should be made to a supplemental needs trust.

Family members should be made aware of the rules that govern the assets of a child with special needs, and they should make their estate planning decisions accordingly. Referring them to a special needs attorney can help your family members do the right thing in the right way.

Bernard Krooks is a New York Elder Law and New York Estate Planning lawyer with offices in White Plains and New York, New York.