Life always changes, for better or for worse, but most people do not prepare for the what-ifs. Life-altering events, such as catastrophic injuries or unexpected illnesses, can leave one with intense feelings of helplessness and stress.

An affected individual facing unforeseen health problems could find themselves unable to work, perform the same job as before or pay their medical bills. A loss of income leads to increased worries about money. In hard times, suffering individuals often turn to their family, neighbors and friends for support.

What’s the true cost of fundraisers?

As a member of these supportive networks, you may help plan a fundraiser to raise money for your loved ones and ease their financial burdens. Donations from a benefit, however, could affect someone’s ability to receive public assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), State Supplement Program (SSP), Medi-Cal or Medicaid.

Government assistance or a fundraiser, can your loved one have both?

Setting up a special needs trust can allow individuals with disabilities to keep their government benefits and receive money collected at fundraisers, or through donations.

Special needs trusts protect the assets a person with physical or mental disabilities already has. They also consider assets one predicts they’ll earn, called expected assets. If you plan a benefit or fundraiser for a family or friend, you know they’ll receive a portion of the money the event raises. You may set up a special needs trust for your loved one if donations are of a substantial enough value to reduce or eliminate their eligibility for government benefits.

It’s human nature to help each other, but consequences do exist to having an impromptu fundraiser with little planning. There is an important question to think about before starting a fundraiser for a loved one: Will the fundraiser have negative consequences for the person it’s intended to help? To discover the answer, the disabled individual or you first could consult an estate planning attorney to determine if it’s reasonable to establish a special needs trust.