For many families, taking care of a loved one with special needs is a daily challenge. Whether it is a child, sibling or other family member, the compassion and caring instincts can be overwhelming. But when it comes to the specific estate planning needs and desires of these situations, it can be very important to look at all the contingencies.
While you want to make sure that your loved ones needs will be met or surpassed, you also need to make decisions that will benefit your overall estate plans at the same time. If your planning also involves family members without special needs, specific considerations should be in place that will maximize the overall benefit to your family, while not sacrificing your special needs plans.
Seven Factors To Consider:
1. Public Benefits: One area to pay close attention to is the public benefits that your loved one with special needs may qualify for. Whether it is Social Security, SSI, rent help or others, you do not want to leave a legacy that would cause your loved one to disqualify for these governmental benefits. If the disabled child happens to be a direct beneficiary, the receipt by this child of insurance proceeds may disqualify him/her from certain benefits. With proper planning, this can be avoided.
2. As a Beneficiary: If your loved one is a beneficiary of your estate Probate assistance and the assets that they receive are not properly structured, the unused portion of your estate could bypass outside your remaining family members upon the death of your special needs member. Most families would prefer to retain these assets for distribution to other family members upon death. This can also be handled with some pre-planning.
3. Special Needs Trusts: These trusts will help to protect your loved one from losing governmental benefits and can provide for many of the extra services that you would like your loved one to use if necessary. These could include massage therapy, personal vacation expenses, companionship services, internet and cable television among others. These funds could also provide supplemental medical, educational and other social interaction benefits that could enrich the life of your child.
Special or supplemental needs trusts are designed to provide for these comfort services that might not otherwise be paid for by public assistance funds. By taking the appropriate legal and financial measures, you can ensure that your loved one will have an opportunity to enjoy a better life than might otherwise be provided by government sponsored programs.
4. Trustees: Selecting proper trustees can be a challenge. Make sure that your choices have a good understanding of what your objectives are. They also should be organized, have great common sense and be readily available to your loved ones. It is usually a good idea to share your wishes with these trustees before their services are needed and ask them if they are capable and willing to provide these services when called upon.
5. Guardians: When looking into who would be the best choice for guardianship of your loved one, many people consider grandparents when a child is younger or under a certain age and then establish provisions for siblings to take over after a certain age or when they are mature enough to properly handle the responsibilities. Having an immediate plan along with a middle and long-range plan for guardianship can be imperative to the best care for your loved one.
6. Formal Care Plan: Providing detailed instructions and carefully thought out changes that should be implemented over the years as your loved one ages will make the process more relevant and provide for better overall care. Specific outlines for educational, financial and social programs that you wish to have your loved one involved in should be provided, along with your preference for providers and frequency of participation. By establishing a structured, clear and thoughtful care plan you will make the implementation of this plan easier. As with any future plans, always allow for flexibility if your trustees and guardians need to make modifications that could improve your loved ones quality of life.
7. Their Own Estate Planning Needs: Many children with special needs grow up and accumulate some assets that may be included in their estate when they pass away. Over the years they may also receive inherited assets which will also need to be administered after they pass. Having a basic estate plan in place for these loved ones can help avoid problems and simplify estate settlement after they are gone. All too often, an unscrupulous individual enters the picture later in their life and takes advantage of them. Stay involved and don’t allow that to happen.