21 Oct 2014

I have a special needs child. How will that affect my estate plan?

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If a child with special needs is dependent on you for their care, what happens to that child when you die? Special needs kids often required different approaches to education, extra medical care, or extra assistance with the tasks of everyday living. Those needs won’t go away when you, their caregiver, passes on. That’s why you absolutely must pay close attention to your estate planning in order to protect those precious children.

Here are four things to consider when creating an estate plan that includes a child (or children) with special needs:

Fair Treatment
How should you divide your estate between your children? This is a particularly sensitive subject if a family has one child with special needs and other children who are able to care for themselves. It can be as simple as sitting down with the kids and explaining your estate plan and your calculations for the care of the child with special needs (if they are old enough, of course).

What is Enough?
How do you know how much financial support a special needs child will require? You will need to carefully calculate the about of finances necessary to support the child over his or her lifetime. Take into account worst case scenarios to your child will never be left without the financial wherewithal if something goes drastically wrong. Plan for medical emergencies, health decline, the possible need for assisted living as the child ages, and for the longest lifespan you can image.

Protect Your Child’s Benefits
Many children with special needs receive benefits from the government — things like Supplemental Security Income, Medicare, etc. You’ll need to make sure that the money you leave them won’t disqualify them from these programs (and that often means setting up a Special Needs Trust).

Ensure Your Estate Plan is Properly Managed
The last thing you need is for an unscrupulous family member, executor or trustee to divert funds away from your special needs child and his or her care. Nor do you want the executor to pass away and leave that child without support.

An attorney skilled in estate planning in a must in these situations, where precise planning is critical to making sure your special needs child is well cared for when you are gone.

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