"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Monday, November 12, 2007

Protecting Your Child's Future With The Henson Trust

The Henson Trust was named after an Ontario man who wanted to pass his entire estate onto his disabled daughter. But if she became the sole beneficiary of the estate and therefore "owned" significant assets and/or property, the government would consider her ineligible for any social assisatance payments. Meaning, for example, that if she lived in Nova Scotia, she would be ineligible for any of those programs we discussed under the Province's Services for Persons with Disabilities Program.

However, the releveant regulations did allow a person in her position to have some money in hand and didn't hold it against a disabled person when a third party provided a discretionary benefit.

For this reason, Mr. Henson drafted his will so that his entire estate was transferred to three trustees to be held on his daughter's behalf. The trustees (and this is the oh so very important part) had the discretion to withhold or spend the income and capital to best serve the daughter's interests. For example, money from the estate could be used to buy her a TV or new clothes or pay for a chaperoned trip. And because these payments were considered discretionary benefits, she still qualified for government support.

What the will didn't do was give the daughter a legal claim to demand money. Unlike the traditional trust that parents often set up in their wills for their minor children, Henson's daughter would never be in a position to go to court and claim that the trustees were wrongfully withholding trust monies from her. It was precisely because she had no legal claim to the monies that the government could not treat the money as hers after she inherited it.

Despite this, the government still saw fit to withhold the daugher's social assistance after Henson died. Which meant that she that she (or more accurately her guardian) was forced to take the matter to court. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the daughter was eligible for continued government benefits and ordered the payments to be reinstated. Unfortunately, it was a hollow victory for Henson's daughter as she died before the Court of Appeal could rule in her favour.

But it was a significant victory for the disabled.

READ MORE



4 comments:

kimberly smith said...

thanks for this info, Michelle

Anonymous said...

Michelle, I feel your involvement with special needs issues is so very important -I think your blawg as you call it, is very very important and I hope all those parents and carers of loved ones with special needs who need information, services and help in general, find your blog. Good of you to transfer some of what you do in one blog on to the other - opens the range of possibilities, I mean more people will be in the position to spread the word. I wish I could do more in this sense.
Well done Michelle

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant to sign Eileen in Argentina - will have to find out how to get my name in there . don't like being anonymous.

MMC said...

Thanks Eileen.
Appreciate it.