How to Provide for a Disabled Child Receiving SSI

Chantal Gaudiano Whittington
7 min readAug 9, 2022


Consider a Special Needs Trust and an ABLE account.

Two older parents hugging their adult disabled son.
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

In my line of work, parents have the most questions about futures planning for their children with disabilities. I am interested in finance, and I read a lot about it. I would like to pass along some of what I have learned to parents who are US citizens whose disabled children receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Normally, SSI means a subsistence income. As my mother-in-law would say, “It’s barely enough to keep a bird alive.” In 2022, SSI maximum payments are typically $841 a month for one person or $1261 a month for a married couple if both spouses are eligible for SSI. Where I live, $800 doesn’t even cover rent in many places. That translates to SSI recipients living in subsidized housing or group homes if SSI is their sole source of income. A Special Needs Trust or an ABLE account, however, can make it possible for a disabled SSI recipient to enjoy more than just the barest minimum of existence.

What is a Special Needs Trust (SNT)?

A Special Needs Trust or supplemental needs trust is an irrevocable trust fund created to allow a child with a disability (or a disabled person below age 65) to receive and/or to inherit cash or other assets without reducing the amount of benefits the person can receive from SSI or Medicaid.

This article discusses third-party, stand-alone Special Needs Trusts, only. I am writing about the sort of SNT that will be started for a child with a disability, who does not yet own assets.

Anyone needing to create a Special Needs Trust or ABLE account should consult with a lawyer and a special needs planner to work out the details of such an account. The contents of this article are not and should not be considered legal or financial advice.

How do I create a Special Needs Trust?

It is possible to create the trust document(s) free of charge or at low cost at sites like Rocket Lawyer, Wealth Counsel, or The Center For Special Needs Trust Administration. A lawyer can also create the trust document and any additional legal documents that might be needed.



Chantal Gaudiano Whittington

Chantal writes about disabilities, spirituality, stock investing--and life in general.