If you are a parent of a special needs child, it is important that you have safeguards in place, so they are ensured the best care possible in the future. You will want to make sure that all expenses, unique needs and their education are accounted for. Here are the things you should be ready to prepare in your estate plan that will address your special needs child.
Establish a special needs trust
Establishing a special needs trust is the most important and most critical legal document you will prepare for your child. This trust is set up to supplement the benefits a special needs child may be getting from the government. These benefits include Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. You should place all the child’s financial assets into this trust instead of being held in your child’s name. You will do this because the government restricts the amount of income the child can receive. This trust can be used for any money you save for the child’s future as well as any financial gifts or money from a legal lawsuit.
Appoint a guardian
A guardian is someone who will take care of your child if you pass away before they become an adult. This person will need to be someone you trust and is willing to take on the responsibility. Since a special needs child can garner a lot of a caretaker’s time, this decision can be extremely important. You may want to consider someone who has already established a relationship with your child.
It is important to plan now for when your child is over the age of 18 and will need assistance managing both financial and medical decisions. Since the law will consider your child to be an adult like everyone else at the age of 18, you may need to consider applying for legal guardianship.
Plan now for when they are an adult
Once your child is an adult, will they continue to live with you? Will they need home-care assistance? Regardless if your child lives with your or independently, all parents need to prepare for their child’s future. However, a special needs child may require additional financial planning if they will be unable to live independently.
Prepare a letter of intent
While it is not a legal document, it may be a good idea for you to put down on paper a list of instructions and wants for your child. You know your child the better than anyone else and passing this information on to a guardian can make life so much easier for them and your child. You can write about the child’s favorite things, what comforts them, their daily schedule, their hobbies, if they have allergies and who they like to spend time with. Everything you put down can detail as much as you want about your child so they can continue living the same lifestyle they had when you were around.
Let the family know about the estate plan
Since much of what you are including in your estate plan regarding your child may affect other people, especially those who you name as a guardian, it is best to let them know. There is no reason to leave it up to chance that they are willing to take on the responsibility. You should also explain to your family the trust that has been set-up for the child and that any inheritance or gifts should not go directly to the child, but to the trust.
The process of setting up an estate plan for your special needs child may feel daunting and stressful, but you should look at it as another way you are caring for and taking care of your child.