As the parent of a child with special needs, it can be difficult to think about the future when you will no longer be able to personally provide the loving care your child needs and deserves. One important way that you can continue to provide for your child, however, is to have an estate plan in place to ensure they have the legal, financial, and other support they need both now and in the future when you are no longer able to advocate on their behalf.
What An Estate Plan Includes
Estate planning is not contingent on having a substantial amount of wealth and is not limited to distribution of your assets alone. Rather, estate planning is the process of organizing both your financial and personal affairs to ensure that your final wishes are honored and your loved ones are taken care of after you are gone. For families, estate plans can allow you to assign insurance beneficiaries, plan for funeral expenses, and establish guardianship for living dependents, which is vital if you have young children or children with special needs who might never be in a position to effectively manage an inheritance on their own.
Special Needs Trust
If you are the parent of a special needs child, you must balance giving your child a portion of your estate with ensuring that those finances do not negatively impact your child’s eligibility to receive needs-based public benefits like Medicaid, Social Security Income, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Many of these benefits are only available to low-income individuals with limited assets, so leaving a lump sum of money as an inheritance to your special needs child might not be in their best interest. Instead, you should consider setting up a special needs trust (SNT), which allows you to leave the property and other assets to your child without disqualifying them from government-funded benefits. Setting up an SNT has the added benefit of allowing your loved one to receive assets from other people, including family members, as well.
If you choose to set up an SNT, you must also appoint a trustee to manage the funds on your child’s behalf. Your trustee will use the funds to support your special needs child’s quality of life, paying for anything he or she might require in the future, which could include, among other things:
- Medical care
It is important to include specific instructions in your SNT documents about how you want your appointed trustee to distribute the funds to properly care for and support your child.
Are You the Parent of a Child with Special Needs? We Can Help Protect Their Future.
The best time to begin estate planning, especially if you have a special needs child you want to provide for, is now. Although it can be uncomfortable to consider the inevitable, developing an estate plan can help ease your mind that your wishes will be carried out, and that your family will be protected in the future. Navigating all the different components of a comprehensive estate plan can be daunting, but the estate planning attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri Law can help guide you every step of the way. In fact, our attorneys have particular expertise and experience in developing special needs trusts. Call us today at 408-553-0801 to schedule your free consultation.