Special Needs Planning
Special Needs Planning focuses on providing for the special needs of our loved ones with disabilities when we are no longer there to organize and advocate on their behalf. Parents of children with special needs must make careful estate planning choices to coordinate all of the legal, financial, and special care needs of their children – both now and in the future.
- How will we pay for the special therapies our child needs now?
- Who will pay our child’s expenses once he or she becomes an adult?
- Where will our child live and who will oversee his or her care after we’re gone?
These questions and fears might stop you in your tracks. But attorneys experienced with special needs planning say that creating a plan can ease anxiety. Some of the issues you need to confront have financial and legal implications: How do you set aside money for your child without affecting his or her government benefits? And some are emotional: Who would understand your child’s needs if something were to happen to you right now?
Here are some important steps to planning your child’s future. Some are simple, some are challenging. Get started on some of these now so you’ll have peace of mind down the road.
Create A Special Needs Trust
A special needs trust is the most important part of your child’s long-term financial plan. This is where you can put money that you save, that others give your child as gifts, or that you receive from an insurance settlement without worrying that these funds will interfere with your child’s eligibility for federal benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Even if you’re unable to pay into a trust right now, it is advisable to go ahead and set one up. This way, you can make the trust the beneficiary of your life insurance policy and your estate, ensuring that those assets don’t get passed to your child when you die.
Why wouldn’t you want your child to be the beneficiary of your estate? Because showing more than $5,000 in assets could make your child ineligible for federal benefits such as SSI. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other loved ones might want to help out with expenses. Explain to them the importance of not putting anything in your child’s name. Have a family meeting and explain why grandpa can’t leave anything to your child in his will or name your child beneficiary of his life insurance policy. The same goes for gifts of savings bonds, stocks or cash; nothing should ever be in your child’s name. If loved ones want to leave something to your child, they can. When we create the special needs trust, we would name the trust as the beneficiary to ensure that your child holds no assets of his or her own.
Apply for Guardianship or Power of Attorney
Once children turn 18, they are considered adults in the eyes of the law. This gives your child the right to make medical and financial decisions. If he or she is not capable of this or needs your guidance, consider assuming legal guardianship or the less-restrictive power of attorney and health care proxy for his or her financial, legal and health care affairs. This way you maintain the same supervision and control you have over these as you did when your daughter or son was younger. We can help with this process. This will ensure that you have all the powers you would need to assume control of your adult child’s health care in the event of an emergency. If your child cannot or won’t consent to your assuming power of attorney, the matter will likely be decided before a probate court judge for either a Guardianship or Conservatorship, or both..
Planning ahead saves a lot of stress and anxiety on parents, family members and others involved with children who have special needs and disabilities. Beck & Lenox Estate Planning & Elder Law is here to help you navigate the process so that you are in the best position to safeguard your child’s health and wellbeing, maximizing his or her quality of life.
Adapted from Kidshealth.org
How To Get Started
At Beck & Lenox, our attorneys have helped thousands of families secure peace of mind that their wishes will be carried out upon their passing and that their children with special needs will have a solid plan in place.
Our team of attorneys in St. Charles will meet with you to review your goals and determine what document(s) may be appropriate for your unique situation, especially with your special needs child in mind. Contact our office to book a call with one of the attorneys at Beck & Lenox Estate Planning & Elder Law.