Estate Planning for Parents of Children with Disabilities: Six Key Issues to Consider

Estate planning is something that everyone needs to consider, but for parents of children with disabilities, it is especially critical.  You will need to not only plan out how to distribute your assets after you pass, but also what type of care your child or children need, and who should be responsible for providing it.  Start by going through the following key issues that you need to cover in your planning.

  1. Your Child’s Guardian(s) – If your child is under the age of 18 and/or will need someone to help handle their financial and health-related decisions, you need to have a legal guardian(s) designated.  This is extremely important, and requires a lot of thought.  This is the person who will be responsible for managing any money or other assets on behalf of your child (known as the “guardian of the property”), and also making important medical decisions for them (known as the “guardian of the person” and may be a different individual). Choosing someone you trust, who will act in your child’s best interest is critical.
  2. Plan for Your Own Disability or Incapacity – In the event that you are injured or become disabled, you need to have plans as to how you will be cared for.  In addition, you need to make sure your child is cared for.  Making plans to take care of any expenses related to this situation should be done in advance.  Make sure you specify who you want making decisions for your medical care.
  3. Health Care Directive – One option you can choose is to have a health care directive in place.  This can help make it clear what types of medical care you want, and don’t want, in certain situations.  You may also want to consider including a Living Will, which specifies the conditions under which you want life-prolonging procedures to be withheld or withdrawn.
  4. Document All Income – In many cases a disabled child will be receiving income from a variety of sources including a trust, social security, Medicare, and possibly your estate after you pass.  Make sure each of these incomes is listed, along with all the information about them, so it can be managed properly by your child’s guardian.
  5. Gather Critical Information – In the event that you should die or become disabled unexpectedly, it is important that your child’s guardian has everything they need to provide the proper care right away.  With this in mind, you should have a file that lists things like doctor’s information, medications, schedules and personal information about your child.  Keep this in a place where the caregiver will have easy access to it in the event that it is needed.
  6.  Planning for Wealth Transfer upon Death / Special Needs Trusts – If something were to happen to you as a parent, do you have a plan in place for where your assets would go?  If you plan to leave assets to a disabled child, it is critical to consider special needs trust planning.  Without the use of a special needs trust, assets left to a child with a disability may disqualify the child from continuing eligibility in a government-funded program, e.g. SSI, SSDI.

Estate planning is a difficult process for many people.  When planning for a disabled child, it can become even harder.  But this is not something you want to put off until it is too late… or it could cause serious problems for your child.  If you have any questions or want to learn more about estate planning, contact us today to discuss your needs!

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