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Mary Beth Kelly

3 estate planning tips for parents of children with special needs

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Parents who support children with special needs have a very different lifestyle than those with neurotypical or physically healthy children. The lifestyle the family maintains is different, as it is necessary to prioritize the unique needs of the child in everything from education to vacation planning.

Estate planning is also very important for those with children who have special needs. Parents need to think about what could happen to their children after their passing or possible future incapacitation. The three tips below may benefit those putting together an estate plan that includes a child – whether an adult or a minor – with special needs.

Avoid direct bequests

One of the biggest mistakes people make when estate planning is to oversimplify the process. They use a will as their only testamentary document and leave certain assets directly to the child with special needs. A large inheritance can quickly cut someone with special needs off from crucial state benefits, like Medicaid coverage. It can also put them at risk of abuse from others. Setting resources aside in a special needs trust is often an ideal way to ensure an individual’s comfort while protecting those resources for as long as possible.

Think carefully about guardians and trustees

Whether the child with special needs is still a minor or is now an adult, they will need direct daily support in most cases. Thorough estate plans can provide two separate forms of support for dependents with special needs. A parent can name a guardian to live with and care for the child in their will. They can also name a trustee to manage any financial resources set aside for the child. Choosing individuals who are ethical and responsible is as important as selecting someone who has a positive relationship with the beneficiary who has special needs.

Address the possibility of incapacitation

Parents don’t just become unable to care for a loved one when they die. They may also have medical issues that interfere with their daily lives. Advanced age could lead to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or physical limitations that prevent someone from providing support for their child or even caring for themselves. Those who have children with special needs should plan for their possible future incapacitation.

Powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives can provide guidance and take the pressure off of immediate family members. They can also help preserve resources that will ultimately pass to someone’s estate and their beneficiary was special needs. Incapacity planning could include empowering the person who could serve as guardian to assist the dependent with special needs even before someone’s death.

No parent wants to leave their child without adequate support, and those who have children with special needs must prepare quite carefully. Engaging in thorough estate planning can help to protect a family member with special needs and give the parents caring for them greater peace of mind.