Your child with special needs is getting older – and so are you. Perhaps your child has always had special needs, or maybe he had a life-altering event such as an accident or the onset of mental illness. Whatever the reason, he will need help long after you’re gone.
We imagine your goals are two-fold:
1. Your deepest desire is to help your special needs child maintain his quality of life when you’re no longer here.
2. You also want to protect your child’s eligibility for government programs designed to support people with disabilities.
What is the best way to achieve these goals?
A solid estate plan is critical. Some of the elements to consider are:
- Preparing a Will
- Designating a Power of Attorney
- Naming a Guardian (for a minor child)
- Creating a Special Needs Trust
- Appointing a Trustee
1. Prepare a Will
The most basic building block of your estate plan is your will. The purpose of a will is to designate how your estate should be distributed upon your death. Without a will, the state makes all the decisions. If you haven’t already taken this important step, now is the time.
2. Designate a Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a person or persons you grant the right to act on your behalf if you are incapacitated. Choose wisely. Your power of attorney has the same authority as you over your finances.
What happens when your child turns 18 and is no longer a minor? If she has the capacity to understand, having her appoint you under her durable power of attorney and health care agent allows you to continue to act on her behalf if necessary.
3. Name a Guardian
If you are your child’s legal guardian, meaning you have petitioned the court to become her guardian after her 18th birthday, who will take over when you’re gone? If you don’t appoint someone, the court will decide.
4. Create a Special Needs Trust
A special needs trust will help to ensure that your child will have sufficient resources to live and to thrive. Your other children have been great, and they’ll continue to be supportive. But you don’t want them to be burdened with financial responsibilities for their special needs sibling.
There are several types of special needs trusts. The good news is –
- You don’t have to be rich to set one up, and
- You don’t have to fund it now.
A Connecticut estate planning attorney who specializes in special needs trusts can help provide advice on the tool that is right for you and your loved one.
5. Appointing a Trustee
Your child cannot receive funds directly from a special needs trust without potentially jeopardizing eligibility for entitlement programs. The trustee you appoint is authorized to pay for a wide range of items, depending on the government benefit programs your child is receiving. These items include:
- Legal advice
- Tickets to concerts and sports events
- Vet bills for your loved ones pet
With the right plan in place, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to build a hedge of protection around your loved one with special needs, and provide the resources to help her live and thrive.