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Biddle Law Estate Planning Blog

Monday, August 14, 2017

Estate Planning for Families with Special Needs Children

Your estate plan should generally change every time you have a child. However, there are unique concerns that you should address when you are crafting an estate plan with a special needs child in mind. Parents of children with disabilities may need to account for life-long medical care, an inability for the child to earn their own living, and naming someone who cares deeply about the child to be a guardian.

In addition, you will often need to plan so that your child will still qualify for government assistance for health care or income support as well. Funds often should not be left directly to the special needs child because he or she will not be able to manage these funds on their own. All of these considerations should be addressed in your estate plan, and it will take some careful planning to account for these issues.

Special Needs Trust

There are some unique estate planning tools that you can use to plan for your special needs child. One often-used tool is a Special Needs Trust. This trust is specifically designed with special needs children or adults in mind. It aims to meet your child’s financial needs while also ensuring that he or she remains eligible for certain government assistance and health care.

Because the funds are in the trust and your child cannot control them, they do not “count” toward the tally of income or assets that is considered for being eligible for certain public benefits. The trustee uses the funds to meet the child’s needs as he or she gets older.

Other Things to Consider Regarding Special Needs Estate Planning

In addition to creating a special needs trust, you should keep the following aspects of special needs estate planning in mind.

  • Ensure that assets that have beneficiary designations are not passing to the child outright. They should go to the special needs trust instead.
  • Think long and hard about whom you want to designate as a guardian for your child.
  • Create a document that spells out any special care instructions that your child needs—from medications to physical or mental care directions.
  • Appoint a successor guardian and successor trustee. These can be the same people or different individuals.
  • Create a video record of any assistance that your child may need and update it regularly for the benefit of the potential guardian.
  • Ensure that you have discussed future living arrangements with the potential guardians and make sure that your child will have access to adequate healthcare in their new living situation.
  • Speak with family members about how they should leave inheritances or gifts to your special needs to child avoid any potential issues that may compromise your child’s governmental assistance.

Based on your unique situation, there may be additional planning that you should do as well. An estate planning attorney can help you with this process so that your loved one does not go without even when you are no longer able to provide for him or her. Contact Biddle Law today to learn more: 650-560-7655.


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