The Voice is the e-mail newsletter of the Special Needs Alliance. This installment was written by Special Needs Alliance member Edward Wilcenski, Esq., a founding partner of the law firm of Wilcenski & Pleat, PLLC in Clifton Park, New York. He practices in the areas of Special Needs Planning, Elder Law, and Trust and Estate Planning and Administration. Ed is a past President of the Special Needs Alliance, and writes and lectures frequently on issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families

Long-time readers of The Voice know that we rarely repeat an issue. In the world of disability there are many important topics to choose from, so the challenge has really been in deciding which topics are of most interest to our readers rather than finding something interesting in the first place. Because the Voice has many new readers each year, we know that many of our current readers may have missed this article when it first appeared in November of 2010. With this in mind, we’ve decided to reprint this article written by Edward V. Wilcenski, Esq. hoping that it may catch newer readers before they make their final decisions on how to make holiday gifts to their family members and friends with disabilities.


Special Needs Beneficiaries Can Be Explicitly Included in Estate Planning

This article for The Voice® was written by Mark B. Heffner, CELA, a graduate of Harvard College and Boston College Law School. He is the principal of Heffner & Associates, a firm with offices in Warwick and Barrington, Rhode Island, focusing since 1992 on elder law, special needs planning, and estate planning. Mark is a Certified Elder Law Attorney, and became a member of the Special Needs Alliance in 2004. He can be found at


Special Needs Planning Benefits All Siblings

This edition of the Voice is written by Benjamin A. Rubin, Esq., LLM, a partner in Rubin Law, with offices in Buffalo Grove, Chicago and Old Orchard, Illinois. The firm focuses exclusively on serving the families of children and adults with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities and mental illness. Having a brother with autism, among other significant disabilities, has profoundly shaped who Benjamin is today, including the type of law he chose to practice.


Looking Ahead: Transition Planning for Life After School

By Sage C. Hart, Esq. High school graduation is a milestone for any student, but when a young adult has disabilities, it ushers in a period of even greater change. While attending public school, students with special needs are legally entitled to a wide array of services, but once they leave (by the age of [...]


Selecting a Trustee – Some Things to Consider

Parents and grandparents often have a pretty good sense of when they may want to create a special needs trust ("SNT") for their child or grandchild with atypical needs. They also understand, perhaps after discussion, when their family's circumstances warrant a need for money management, or if an inheritance will jeopardize essential means-tested government benefits, like SSI or Medicaid. In meeting with a special needs attorney, Clark and Cathy explained that Sara, their daughter with developmental delays, would be unable to manage her own inheritance. The question they had not fully considered was, "Who should hold that job after they are gone?"


How to Get Started with Special Needs Planning

By Kelly A. Thompson, Esq. Given packed schedules, fragmented services and lack of information, how can families get started with special needs planning? A University of Illinois study found that fewer than half its respondents had done long-term planning for their children with developmental disabilities. Getting Started While the challenges are significant, the reality is [...]


The Impact of Tax Reform on Special Needs Planning

By James McCarten, Esq. As a 2017 holiday present to taxpayers, Congress passed tax legislation that your representatives, senators and many tax professionals have described as the most significant overhaul of our tax laws since 1986, when President Ronald Reagan's tax bill was passed. What follows is an overview of those provisions of what was [...]


Don’t Let an Emergency Find You Unprepared

By Elizabeth L. Gray, Esq. While snowstorms, fires and other disasters can plunge entire communities into chaos, the challenges for those with disabilities are often even more acute. But with careful planning, individuals with special needs and their families can reduce the disruption. Get Informed Begin by contacting your local emergency management office to understand [...]


SNT Beneficiaries on the Move: First in a Series

This installment of The Voice was written by Special Needs Alliance member Kristen M. Lewis, Esq., who practices in Atlanta, Georgia at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP. Kristen is also a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. She is a frequent national speaker on Special Needs Planning, and serves on the Boards of numerous non-profits that support individuals with disabilities and their families. In her vast amounts of free time, she trains certified service dogs for Canine Assistants in Milton, Georgia.


Roundup: Inheritances/Caregivers/Court Filings

SNA attorneys have ongoing involvement with the wide-ranging issues faced by individuals with disabilities, their families and the professionals who serve them. Below is a sampling of posts from member blogs and newsletters. The grandparents of my child with special needs left him an inheritance. What do we do? Without special needs planning, a well-intentioned inheritance can leave someone ineligible [...]


The ABLE Act – A New Tool for Special Needs Planning

This installment of the Voice was written by Robert B. Fleming, CELA. Robert is a partner in Fleming & Curti, PLC, a Tucson law firm focusing on special needs planning, trust administration, guardianship/conservatorship and estate planning. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, and also of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been a member of the Special Needs Alliance since its founding, and was one of the original co-authors of the SNA's Handbook for Trustees, the free online guide to managing special needs trusts.


Crossing State Lines

Special Needs Planning for Moving to a New State By Wendy H. Sheinberg, CELA No one enjoys moving; it's hard work and involves lots of detail (not to mention all of those boxes). Managing the transition for someone with special needs can be difficult; it's wise to begin planning as soon as you begin seriously [...]


Government Benefits as a Foundation for Special Needs Planning

By Barbara Isenhour, Esq. Navigating the acronym-ridden maze of government benefits is tough and misconceptions abound. Families may be unaware of the full range of options available to individuals with I/DD, or they may be confused about eligibility, assuming that they have too much income to consider means-based programs. Most individuals with I/DD can benefit [...]


How to Assess Future Life Needs for a Loved One with a Disability

By Joanne Marcus, MSW, Executive Director, Commonwealth Community Trust The first months, or even years, after receiving the diagnosis are filled with unexpected questions and challenges when you have a loved one with special needs. “Here-and-now” needs like healthcare, therapy, education and other immediate needs can quickly take priority over future planning, which is understandable. [...]


Do I Really Need A Professional Trustee For My Special Needs Trust?

By Michael C. Walther, President, Oak Wealth Advisors Serving as a trustee requires administrative and technical skills in addition to strong interpersonal communication skills. Identifying the appropriate trustee is difficult in general; a Special Needs Trust (SNT) presents additional challenges. While most families will name a relative to serve as the trustee of their family’s [...]


Naming a Special Needs Trust as Beneficiary of your IRA or Retirement Plan

This issue of the Voice was written by Special Needs Alliance member Lisa Nachmias Davis, CELA, a partner in the New Haven, Connecticut law firm of Davis O'Sullivan & Priest, LLC. Ms. Davis helps clients with estate planning, setting up or administering special needs trusts, qualifying for public benefits, and probate and estate settlement; she also represents charities and other nonprofit organizations. Her website is