Estate Planning for Families with Special Needs Children

Estate Planning for Famil…

Parents and guardians of children with special needs work hard to make sure their child is well-taken care of. They advocate for educational accommodations and medical needs. They make sure their child is loved and cared for.

Many parents worry what might happen to their special needs child when they are no longer around.

Although not exhaustive, here are 5 things parents of special needs children should do to protect their child:

  1. Name a Guardian
    All parents of minors should make sure they name a guardian in their will. This will make sure your wishes are heard if something should happen to you before your child becomes an adult. However, many special needs children will need help even after they legally become an adult. There are several ways to set up a guardian for your special needs adult child. Legacy Law Group would be happy to assist you with this.
  2. Set Up a Special Needs Trust
    A special needs trust is a trust that will preserve your child’s eligibility for needs-based government benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Because your child does not technically own the assets in the trust and because the assets in the trust are only available to supplement (and not replace) their benefits, your child remains eligible for government programs. However, the Trustee can distribute funds that would help your child, such as purchasing or maintaining a home that your child could live in; providing for recreation, travel, or entertainment; and even supplementing healthcare and home help assistance.
  3. Leave Sufficient Resources
    No one knows self-sacrifice and hard work like a parent of a special needs child. Perhaps you used your life savings or gave up your career to care for your child. Many parents purchase life insurance to fund their child’s special needs trusts. Life insurance can provide funds at your death to help pay for caregivers or other resources that can maintain a good quality of life for your child.
  4. Have Your Kids Apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits before age 22
    Your disabled child may not be eligible for SSI when they still a minor, because the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look to the parents’ earnings and assets to determine the child’s eligibility. However, when your disabled child is legally an adult at 18, SSA will look only to your child’s income and assets in determining SSI eligibility.

    If a person is deemed disabled by the SSA prior to age 22, then that disabled child will be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) from his or her parent’s earnings record upon the disability or death of the parent. SSDI benefits can be substantially higher than SSI benefits.
  1. Prepare a Letter for Your Child’s Guardian. You have been with your child every step of the way. You know your child’s medical history better than most of their doctors. Share your child’s medical history and treatment plans, medications, and daily care needs in a letter to your child's guardian. Additionally, you know their likes, dislikes, fears, and triggers. Also include this vital information in the letter. While these things may be second nature to you, it is important for your child and their guardian that you share your knowledge.

Being a parent to a special needs child is complicated. We’re here to help ease your worries. Legacy Law Group will help you create an estate plan with your special needs child in mind. We are dedicated to giving you the peace of mind of knowing your child will be protected and cared for even after you are gone.