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.
If you plan to leave an inheritance to your special needs child, you should consider creating a Special Needs Trust. Leaving an adult child with special needs an inheritance while they are receiving Social Security Income or Medicaid can result in a penalty period, which may result in a loss of medical coverage and other important benefits. A Special Needs Trust can help you avoid penalty periods and give your child supplemental income for housing, food, clothing and additional medical care.
Long-Term Care Planning
Perhaps the most important aspect of planning for your adult child’s future is long-term care. Include the entire family in care plans. If you plan to ask your special needs child’s siblings to assist with care, include them in the care decisions. Outline the caregiving roles and responsibilities of each family member. If you plan to hire additional caregiving support for your child, you should also discuss this with your family.
In addition to facilitating family discussions about finances and caregiving needs, an elder law attorney will help you develop a special needs plan that protects your child’s future care and support.