For parents of special needs children, taking steps to plan for the future, when they will not be there for their child, can be hard to confront. Parents fill many varied and prolonged roles. However, planning in advance for special needs family members is vital. An article titled “4 Tips for Estate Planning When Your Child Has a Disability” from Yahoo! Lifestyle offers good insights and information. An elder law attorney with a focus on special needs planning will be an invaluable resource.
Create a letter of intent. This is a letter of instruction that includes information family and friends will need if you die or become incapacitated. It should list all the information someone would need to step into your life to care for your loved one. That includes information about medications, daily routines, strategies you use for calming, and other daily living information that only you know. The goal is for someone to be able to step in and see how your life works with as little stress as possible and make the transition easier.
Meet with an attorney with experience in special needs planning. Most attorneys will meet you for a free consultation. Allow them to help you build a vision for what you want your loved one’s future to look like. They will know how to plan out the future and what documents will be needed.
Create a will or living trust. You’ll want to be the one deciding who should be the caregiver for your child and who should be in charge of your money. Without a will or living trust, the estate goes to probate, and a judge who does not know you or your child will make these decisions. Having a will ensures that assets are distributed as you intended and that the care of your child is done by someone you select.
Create a special needs trust. Your attorney will help with this special type of trust, which can be within your will or living trust or as a separate document, which allows you to distribute funds and property in a way that will not make your loved one lose their government benefits. Your special needs child is not permitted to have more than $2,000 in a bank account or they will become ineligible for Medicaid and Social Security.
Create an estate plan. The estate planning attorney will be able to help you use strategies to transfer assets after you have passed.
Set up a power of attorney or guardianship. Do you need to take full guardianship of your special needs child when they turn 18? Can he or she understand money and decisions? Will they ask for help? Supported decision-making is a viable alternative for some families, but you know your child best. If necessary, the power of attorney for financial and medical issues may work better. Talk to an attorney when your child turns 17 so that you can be prepared.
Establish an ABLE Account. An ABLE account ensures that benefits are not jeopardized. The account can hold money to ensure that your child never has more than the permitted number of assets.
Take this one step at a time, as you likely have done throughout your special needs child’s life. Filling in all the roles you serve one at a time will provide stability and comfort when you cannot do so yourself. It may take a long time to put all of these steps in order, so start now.
Reference: Yahoo! Lifestyle (August 26, 2019) “4 Tips for Estate Planning When Your Child Has a Disability”