Estate Planning: Special Considerations for Parents of Children with Special Needs

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**This guest blog was written and submitted by Lucille Rosetti from The Bereaved.**

If you have a child with special needs, it’s important to have a plan in place to care for them in the event of your death or if you are impaired by debilitating illness or injury. Work closely with your attorney, accountant, financial planner, and family to develop an appropriate estate plan (including whether you feel an estate sale is the right plan of action) for your child. To begin, you will need to get multiple documents in place and make your wishes known to everyone involved in order to be assured that your child will receive all the necessary care. Here are a few helpful tips to get started with the process.
Write a Will
Everybody should have a will. However, for parents of special needs children, it’s especially important. One reason is that a child with special needs must have very little in assets if they require public benefits to access services. And if you die without a will, then they may inherit assets that would cause them to lose access to such benefits. Another reason to have a will is that you can name your minor child’s guardian in the will. You probably wouldn’t want a judge to appoint a guardian without your input on the matter.
Get Life Insurance
Purchasing life insurance is an important task for any parent. More so if you know your child’s care needs will be of significant cost without your income to support them. Ideally, you want the policy to provide enough to care for them indefinitely, but your budget will help determine what you can afford. Keep in mind too the importance of connecting any life insurance payout to a special needs trust.
Set Up a Special Needs Trust
A special needs trust (also known as a supplemental needs trust) is designed to provide funds for someone with a disability, while also preserving the person’s eligibility for important government benefits. When creating a special needs trust, you’ll need to appoint a trustee to watch over the assets and administrate spending decisions. Pick a trustee based on their willingness to serve, lack of conflict of interest, empathy with the beneficiary, and several other qualities. It’s also a good idea to consult with your attorney for tips on how to determine who among your family and friends may be the most prepared to carry out these duties.
Write a Letter of Intent
A letter of intent isn’t a legal document; instead, it’s a letter of your wishes and information about your child. The Special Needs Alliance says the goal of this letter should be to guide future caregivers, guardians, and trustees in providing the best possible care for your child. The letter should include your child’s medical history, lifestyle preferences, daily habits, food needs, benefits received, and other information you think is important for caretakers and family members. It should also list your child’s religion and place of worship, along with the social activities and people they enjoy. And finally, the letter should also list desires for your child’s final arrangements, whether you have planned for burial, cremation, and any other specifics.
While talking about death and making plans regarding what will happen when you are gone is always difficult, it’s imperative to do so when you have children. And when you have a child with special needs, the importance often becomes even greater. However, by putting together a well-researched and thorough plan with the proper documents and statements, you can rest assured that your wishes will be met. Your special needs child will reap the benefit of your forethought and wisdom and will continue to be taken care of in the manner that you desire with all of your considerations taken into account.

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