Families that have special needs children require special estate plans as well. Your estate plan should address issues related to ensuring that your child is fully taken care of while also maintaining eligibility for certain government programs and benefits such as Social Security and Medicaid. Having enough funds available can be a major concern, as well as issues dealing with treating other children fairly or equally. Problems with care, supervision, and management of inheritance funds is also often an issue.
Families with special needs children may want to consider certain estate planning tools that are specifically designed to meet their needs.
Special Needs Trust
Perhaps the most common or well-known estate planning instrument for families with special needs children is the special needs trust. This specific type of trust is designed to meet the child’s financial needs while also ensuring that he or she remains eligible for certain government benefits. As the money in the trust is not considered “available” to the child, it does not “count” for purposes of government benefits.
The trustee is given complete discretion over how much should be distributed to the child. He or she will keep income limitations in mind while also balancing the need to pay for certain care services.
Power of Attorney Documents
It is important to incorporate a power of attorney for financial and care decisions into an estate plan for many families with special needs children. This document will appoint someone (other than yourself) to make decisions on behalf of your child related to financial matters or other issues as you designate. This individual can pay bills, manage bank accounts, and ensure that income is coming in correctly.
If your child also has capacity, even if he or she is considered disabled, he or she should also sign a power of attorney as well once they become an adult. Creating advanced healthcare directives can also be helpful. This type of document allows someone else to make care decisions on behalf of your child as well.
Creating a Conservatorship or Guardianship
A conservatorship or guardianship allows someone else to step in and make all of the important decisions on behalf of your child. This is different from a power of attorney because this individual will have the ability to make all decisions, instead of just the ones that you explicitly set out in your power of attorney documents.
Finding the Right Balance
Every family requires a unique estate plan to fit their needs. However, families with special needs children must take extra precautions that may not be necessary for other families. The Matus Law Firm has specialized experience in this area, so we can help.