A parent with a special needs child can feel a lot of stress as they consider how best to care for their child after mom or dad dies. That concern leads me to expand my disability practice to include special needs estate planning.
It’s important for the parent to strategically approach the question of how to leave funds for a special needs child while also leaving the child with access to public benefits.
My first step is to meet with the parents and get to know them and their child, and hear about their goals for providing after-death support to the child. Oftentimes parents with a special needs child will assume that a typical child will provide the needed support for their special needs child, and they leave the majority of their estate to them. However, that misses the opportunity to both best safeguard funds for the special needs child, and take advantage of public benefits.
I question parents on whether placing the responsibility on the typical child to take care of their sibling is fair. Will it cause hurt feelings? I caution that it can be difficult for anybody to decide how a pool of resources should be divided up without clear guidelinesthat’s where a special needs estate plan becomes an excellent tool.
The special needs estate plan includes a supplemental needs trust, which creates a clear path for how best to manage mom and dad’s fund after they have died, for the benefit of the disabled child. It also preserves the child’s eligibility for public benefits including SSI.
A thorough estate plan that includes special needs planning will also take into account your typical children. I will draft the appropriate plan that addresses your desires to include all your children.
The supplemental needs trust will also require a trustee or trustees to manage for the benefit of the child with special needs once you are gone. I spend a good deal of time with my clients getting to know the important players in their life, so ultimately they can choose the trustees that can best handle the responsibilities and the privilege of administering that trust.
Once the trust has been created, I will continue to work with you, either as a professional trustee, or to otherwise administer the trust. My goal is to make sure you and your family are taken care of now and in the future.