We are pleased to welcome special needs planning attorney Colleen Masse to our team as a valuable and experienced addition to our Special Needs and Disability Planning Department. Colleen was drawn to focus on helping families navigate special needs trusts because of her own passion for special needs advocacy, a passion that grew out of personal family experience and evolved into an impressive and rewarding career.
Colleen began her legal career at Travelers, but after 9/11 took some time off to be a stay-at-home parent to her two sons. Her deep interest in helping children with disabilities and survivors of child abuse inspired her to become an advocacy trainer. In that role, she coordinated seminars for teachers and parents, helping them better understand and address the challenges faced by children with special needs, students and their caregivers and teachers. She also took on related roles:
- Joined the board of SpEdConnecticut, a lobbying and advocacy group with a similar focus
- Worked with the Connecticut State Department of Education where she represented students in the care of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) in their education programs
Most recently, Colleen worked at PLAN of Connecticut, a non-profit with more than 25 years experience helping families provide for children and adults with disabilities through the use of special needs trusts.
Throughout her career, Colleen has maintained a fierce and compassionate focus on working for the benefit of individuals with special needs and their families. Her naturally calm and kind demeanor coupled with her personal experience make it easy for her to quickly establish good rapport with all family members.
“A lot of my job is about being an excellent listener. Because in addition to having an in-depth knowledge of the legal issues, it’s critical to have a strong understanding of each family’s unique dynamics. Establishing a successful special needs trust depends in large part on being able to tailor the trust to the specific needs of the recipient and other family members. The real-life nature of the relationships must be taken into account and all the right checks and balances must be set up in such a way that they will endure for the long term.”
Colleen has helped families avoid the financial hardships and crises that can arise if the appropriate special needs trust is not in place. In some cases, families come to her seeking a proactive solution well in advance of any specific need. Other times, families are in dire need of immediate help to mitigate issues caused by a sudden change in finances, often the result of a well-meaning relative leaving money to the individual with disabilities.
Situations involving unexpected gifts or inheritances can throw the life of the person with disabilities into a complete tail spin, putting state and federal benefits in jeopardy and potentially causing a loss of housing, job training, medical and other support services. Luckily for the families who come to Colleen for help, her proficiency handling such cases gives her the ability to tackle even the most complex of issues with confidence and calm.
When she is not advocating for her clients and their families, Colleen enjoys hiking and camping (both her sons are scouts), reading, and gamely trying to master the French language. We are thrilled to have her join us as a part of our Special Needs and Disability Planning Department.