Special Needs Trusts: 

Formation and Instructing Trustees

Costs associated with any disability are high, but public benefits programs for the disabled are funded at a subsistence level at best and are often the first cut in times of budget shortfalls. 

Public benefits programs such as Medi-Cal, SSI, and Section 8 Housing are based upon “need,” and individuals with “sufficient” assets are not eligible for assistance. In addition, individuals who currently receive Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) might become eligible for Medi-Cal in the future, and planning for a Special Needs Trust might save valuable benefits down the road.

Where such “needs-based benefits” are provided, the existence of a Special Needs Trust allows the individual to continue to receive the public benefits for all that the program provides and to use the funds from a Special Needs Trust to pay for the many items not covered by the public benefits program, vastly extending the limited public benefits and improving the person's qu
ality of life.

Discussions about special needs planning are important if you have a disabled family member who might receive money from you, from another inheritance, or from a lawsuit.  Don’t be timid about discussing the needs of your family members with your elder law attorney.  Preparing Special Needs Trusts is complicated by the rules of the public benefits' agencies, so you need a attorney who specializes in setting up and administering these trusts.  Tricia is a certified elder law attorney, which includes special training in special needs trust administration. 

Contact Tricia as soon as possible if you become aware of a situation in which a disabled family member might receive money, so that proper steps may be taken to revise estate plan documents or file court documents before public benefits are affected.  

Elder Law:

Public Benefits Planning

Ensuring that disabled individuals receive the most from the public benefit programs is an integral part of the planning process.  The world of public benefits (Medi-Cal, veterans, and disability benefits) is complex and puzzling, at best.  Some public benefit programs have asset limits, but eligibility rules are tricky and might be expanded legitimately under certain circumstances. 

We advise those who may be facing long-term illness or disease in determining whether they qualify for benefits, or how they might qualify under expanded eligibility rules.    

(707) 284-1424

Our Services

The Law Offices of Tricia A. Shindledecker provides individualized and compassionate estate planning and estate administration legal services.  We focus on your concerns and goals to counsel and advise you in matters relating to estate planning, probate, trust administration, special needs, public benefits planning, and conservatorships.  We focus on the things that matter to you.

Estate Planning: 

Wills, Living Trusts, Powers of Attorneys

We assist you in removing the mystery from the estate planning process.  As your allies in the planning process, we “translate” the legal vocabulary to plain-language, common-sense terminology. 

Generally, your estate plan will include the following documents:  living trust, will, advanced health care directive, and durable power of attorney.  Depending on your circumstances, other planning may be appropriate, including special needs, charitable, life insurance, or other types of trusts or business entities.  A well-designed estate plan will state your goals today, implement tax planning strategies appropriate for your situation, and set the foundation for future revisions as your family and financial situation change over time.  Not all attorneys are equally skillful in estate planning matters.  Some lawyers prepare documents with limited understanding of the legal or tax consequences.  Tricia A. Shindledecker has over twenty years’ experience in estate planning matters.  Tricia is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law with the State Bar of California.  Her law colleagues have named her as a “Super Lawyer” for seven consecutive years in the areas of estate planning and elder law.  Tricia has the experience to understand the intricacies of estate planning.

Estate Administration :

Probate and Trust Administration

Probate.  Whether a person uses a Will to state their wishes (or never states their wishes at all), probate is the court process for distributingassets after the person has died.  The probate court process is detailed and time-consuming.  The death of a loved one is an upsetting experience. Spending hours settling a loved one’s finances in the probate process makes the ordeal more agonizing and emotionally trying.  Hiring reliable, experienced attorneys skilled in the probate process will ease the difficulty, reduce stress, and expedite the distribution.

Not all attorneys are equally versed in probate rules and procedures.  We routinely handle probate administration matters and probate petitions of all types.  

Trust Administration.  You may find yourself responsible for handling the affairs of a friend or loved one who has died after creating a trust.  The role of trustee can be confusing and overwhelming.  Hiring a qualified attorney to advise you about your responsibilities is an important step.  As the trustee you may hire any attorney to help you with your responsibilities, and you need not return to the attorney who originally drafted the trust.

California law imposes numerous requirements on trustees, and we can advise you about practical options for satisfying your obligations in the trustee role.  We regularly advise individual and professional trustees who are named to handle trusts for incapable or deceased individuals, including special needs trusts. 


Conservatorships are court proceedings for adults who are unable to handle their own finances or make their own personal care decisions.  We frequently handle conservatorship matters and the appointment of individuals to handle affairs for those unable to manage assets, resist fraud or undue influence, or care for themselves.

Copyright © Law Offices of Tricia A. Shindledecker. All rights reserved.

Tricia is an outstanding lawyer who is highly regarded in the community.  She is an expert in the fields of elder law and trust/estate law. I give her my highest recommendation..

                             ~ fellow attorney