Planning for your child begins early, and carries on throughout their life. For parents of a child with a disability, the degree of planning and preparation needed increases. Creating an estate plan tailored to the needs of your child could not only provide security and peace of mind for you, but also for your child.

When you begin planning for your estate, a few main questions to carefully consider are:

  • What level of capacity does your child have, and what are their specific needs?
  • What government benefits and services do they currently receive, or are they likely to receive in the future?
  • What are the eligibility standards of those benefits and services?
  • What level of guidance and care will your child require after your death?

The answers to these questions will begin to illuminate which elements of estate planning are required to fit the specific needs of your child and your family. While every estate plan is unique, a few of the main planning tools used for children with disabilities include:

Guardianship

Selecting a guardian for your child is a crucial first step to creating an estate plan for your child. A guardian would be appointed in the parents will in the event that both parents died before the child turned 18, or if the child was over the age of 18 but did not have capacity to care for themselves. It is extremely important to have a guardian named for your children to make your wishes known.  Otherwise, the court will be the one to determine who would be the best guaridan – potentially resulting in your child being placed with someone you would not have wished to care for your child.

Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust can protect an individual with a disability through allowing them to hold their assets without going over the $2,000 allowed to qualify for SSI or Medicaid. The requirements of a special needs trust include that it is established for an individual who has a disability, and that the disability occurred before the creation of the trust. In addition, the trust must be created by a parent, grandparent, or guardian of the beneficiary and it must contain the assets of only the individual with a disability, who must be under 65 years old. Lastly, upon death, all assets remaining in the trust would be used to pay back the amount paid by medical assistance. This is an important tool as it would allow the individual access to greater financial resources and assets, without endangering their benefits.

Supplemental Needs Trust

A supplemental needs trust is a highly valuable tool in estate planning for a child with a disability. These trusts were specifically designed for beneficiaries with disabilities, and allow parents to transfer assets to their child without impacting his or her ability to collect public assistance. However, anyone (except the beneficiary of the trust) can contribute property to a supplemental needs trust. This is due to the fact that the assets would be owned by the trust, and not the child. A supplemental needs trust would allow parents the ability to assure that their child will have a quality of life they deserve, while also maintaining their public benefits. Of great importance is the fact that inheritances may be left to a Supplemental Needs Trusts.  Parents of a child with a disability who may receive public assistance are often concerned about providing for that child when they are no longer here to do so themselves.  By creating a Supplemental Needs Trust, they leave inheritances to financially support that child to the Supplemental Needs Trust without disrupting the public assistance that child may be receiving.

Parents strive to provide security and comfort for their children. Through creating an estate plan, countless parents can give just that to their children with special needs. Every child is an individual, and every child deserves an individualized plan for their care.

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

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