There are several types of assets that do not pass through the traditional probate process. Rather than being governed by provisions of a will, these assets are distributed on death based upon provisions in other documents. Some examples of these assets include: life insurance, joint bank accounts, retirement accounts, and real estate that is held jointly. It is always advisable for everyone to check these designations yearly, but it is particularly important for families with individuals who have special needs.
It is far too common to see a family put in place a comprehensive estate plan, including a special needs trust, only to forget to change the designations on nonprobate property. This can cause problems at death when property is distributed to an individual with a disability who is receiving public benefits. Such distributions often are treated as countable assets and can jeopardize assess to benefits.
It is good practice to review beneficiary designations yearly, and discuss any changes with an attorney whose practice is focused on special needs planning,