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Planning for the future of your children is always important, and it always requires care and forethought. When your child has a disability, however, it’s even more vital to have a secure plan in place. You need to know that your child will be cared for in all eventualities, especially if you become ill or pass away. Below, we discuss a few tips for planning for disabled children. Call a trusted West Palm Beach special needs planning attorney with any questions or for help planning your estate.
Caring for a child or adult with special needs is an expensive prospect. They’ll need special education, medical care, and any number of additional care services and equipment. Federal and state benefits programs can be vital in providing the necessary care and support without going bankrupt in the process.
To provide for your child while still ensuring they are eligible for programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), consider establishing a special needs trust. A special needs trust allows you to provide steady income and care to your disabled child without giving the assets to the child directly. The assets in the trust will not be reachable by creditors and will not be counted toward your child’s income or net worth for the purpose of needs-based governmental programs.
Even if you lack the additional funds to pay into the trust right now, it’s still helpful to have the trust in place. You can, for example, make the trust the beneficiary of your life insurance proceeds and your estate. Should you pass away, your child will be well-cared for while still being eligible for invaluable government benefits.
Part of establishing a special needs trust is naming the right trustee. The trustee will be responsible for administering the trust, including management of the assets and distribution of trust funds to your child. You can choose a trusted family member or friend, a member of your professional team (such as a lawyer or accountant), an independent professional trustee, or even a financial institution. Your estate planning attorney can help you identify a good candidate to manage your special needs trust during your life and/or after your death.
Planning for your disabled child first requires planning for yourself. Make sure that your end-of-life plans are all in order, including a last will and testament, relevant trusts, powers of attorney, and other matters. Work with an estate planning attorney to get all your affairs in order so that if you become incapacitated or die, everything will run smoothly for your surviving family members. Avoid estate taxes, avoid costly and complex probate, and ensure a smooth transition for your spouse and disabled child.
Part of your estate plan should include a nomination of guardianship. A guardian will be responsible for caring for your minor children should you and the child’s other parent become incapacitated or pass away. You can choose who will be appointed guardian by the court as well as dictate instructions for your child’s care and upbringing. If you’ve named a family member or friend as trustee of your child’s special needs trust, it’s usually advisable to name a different person as their putative guardian.
When your child reaches age 18, they will become a legally independent adult. If your child has a disability that prevents them from adequately caring for themself, you might wish to assume the rule of their legal guardian even while they are an adult. If your child can make some decisions but still needs care in other areas, you might consider seeking a financial and/or medical power of attorney. Talk to your estate planning attorney about your options for guardianship and how you can best care for your child while allowing them to maintain the autonomy they can safely retain.
A special needs trust attorney at Shalloway & Shalloway can help you protect your family, creating an estate and special needs plan tailored to the needs and circumstances of your family. We will evaluate your situation to determine the best type of will, trust, or other legal tools that may benefit you and your loved ones the most. Contact the seasoned, stellar West Palm Beach estate planning attorneys at Shalloway & Shalloway at 561-686-6200.