If you are the parent of a child with special needs, we cannot stress enough that you need a tailored estate plan. Caring for children with special needs takes time and energy. There may come a day when you cannot provide your child with the care he or she needs. Estate planning for parents of children with special needs aims to address this problem.
Careful estate planning can help your family maintain continuity in your child’s life. For example, the letter of intent is one element of an estate plan for a parent of a child with special needs. Many letters of intent express parents’ wishes for their child’s future, including upbringing, religion, and values. The letter can include a detailed explanation of your child’s daily routine, likes and dislikes, friends and trusted relatives, favorite foods and clothing, medicines and health care information, and anything else particular to him or her. Creating this letter and updating it frequently will help future caregivers.
Caring for a child with special needs can be expensive. Parents of children with special needs can set up a Special Needs Trust (SNT) to save money for care. The SNT is a specific type of trust with the child with special needs as beneficiary. Under the law, your child will not be disqualified from receiving SSI and Medi-Cal benefits even though he or she is the beneficiary of an SNT. When your child needs the money from the trust, a trustee can use the money to pay for your child’s needs.
If you have life insurance or retirement plans such as pensions or 401(k)s, and you plan to leave these to your child with special needs, consult with an estate planning attorney. Leaving the funds directly to your child with special needs could jeopardize his or her eligibility for government benefits. There are ways to work around this through careful estate planning, such as use of a Special Needs Trust.
You may need to set up a guardianship or conservatorship for your child with special needs. The guardianship (for minor children) and conservatorship (for adults) mean that a trusted person is appointed by the court to deal with your child’s personal needs and/or financial needs. Parents of minor children should consider selecting a potential guardian now who could take over if the parents cannot care for their children in the future. Parents of adult children who, because of special needs, require help with personal care or finances, should consider setting up a conservatorship now. While getting a conservator appointed can be time-consuming, it gives you peace of mind that someone is always looking out for your child.
Are you the parent of a child with special needs and need an estate plan? Angela Klenk, Esq. and the team at Beach Cities Estate Law couple personalized attention to your estate plan with big law firm experience for a winning combination to give you peace of mind. To schedule a case evaluation, visit Beach Cities Estate Law online or call Angela’s office at (424) 400-2125.
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