It’s no surprise that having a special needs child is both challenging and rewarding. Not only are there school and medical issues to consider, there are also the financial needs of your child. Planning for your child’s financial well-being should be an important part of your estate plan especially since improved healthcare has allowed children with conditions such as cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome, to live longer.
A special needs trust is essential for protecting a loved one’s quality of life and access to government benefits.
Estate planning is nothing new. People know about the importance of having an up to date will, living will and power of attorney and most have these documents at the ready. What if you have a child with a severe physical or mental disability and he or she will not be able to support him or herself? How can you plan for your child’s care when you are no longer around? That’s where special needs planning comes in.
Before consulting with an expert (this is not a do-it-yourself project) you need to organize your and your child’s financial and medical information. Like many people, you probably have social security numbers, phone numbers, etc. in various places. That is why it is important to have this information in an easy to access place. Click here to see what information needs to be gathered and documented.
For the parent or guardian of someone with special needs, government benefits can be confusing. Between the acronyms, eligibility requirements and applications, caregivers often have misconceptions about their loved one’s eligibility or how to apply for benefits.
A large portion of special needs planning involves helping people with special needs receive the benefits to which they are entitled. Public benefits offer a wide range of assistance for living expenses and care options. These benefits work as a foundation for the care and support for individuals with special needs.
Below are a few public programs that provide care and support for families caring for a loved one with special needs.
Many parents of children with special needs ask themselves: Who will care for my child once I am no longer able to? Where will he or she live? Where will financial support come from? Who will advocate for my child? What will happen when he or she reaches adulthood?
These are common questions, which all should be asked in preparation for when parents can no longer care for their child due to advancing age or death. By planning for your child’s future now, you can establish parameters for the level of care needed in the future and prepare your family for their roles and responsibilities in your child’s future.
Begin Planning Early
A small amount of planning now in preparation for a child’s care as an adult can help parents avoid a crisis in the future. To begin special needs planning, parents should consider meeting with an elder law attorney to having the following documents drawn up: a durable financial power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a letter of intent, physician’s directive or living will and, if appropriate, a declaration of guardianship. These documents will facilitate the care of your adult special needs child, and will help ensure that he or she will be eligible for public benefits.
A health care power of attorney is an essential part of your estate plan.
When planning for the future of an elderly family member or child with special needs, you should consider preparing a powers of attorney. Powers of attorney are a simple and inexpensive way to help manage financial and medical accounts if you or your loved one is no longer able to make decisions clearly. For reasons of simplicity and clarity, it is usually better to have separate financial and medical powers of attorney.
Powers of attorney eliminates the worry and stress of managing financial and medical accounts during a time of incapacitation. Powers of attorney are prepared by your attorney and give control over financial and medical accounts to an agent, who is normally a family member or trusted friend. The agent is then granted legal authority to manage the principal’s accounts, usually while he or she is unable to.
The care of your child with special needs is extremely important now, but it is equally important in the future. Deciding how to care for your child with special needs after your death or if you become incapacitated is vital. Here are 5 costly mistakes to take into consideration when deciding how to provide the best care for your child in the future.
Mistake #1: Disinheritance.
Do not rely on government supported care programs like SSI or Medicaid. Although these programs provide some benefits, they provide little more than the essentials to survive. These programs also do not guarantee that your child will be looked after once you are gone or if you become incapacitated. A more trustworthy and viable option is establishing a Special Needs Trust. A trust will provide a strong foundation for your child and guarantees that he or she is cared for. Continue Reading Planning for the Future of a Child with Special Needs Five Mistakes that can Cost you →