Estate planning can be a challenging task for any parent, but it can be particularly complex for parents of children with disabilities. These parents have unique concerns and considerations that must be taken into account when creating an estate plan. In this blog post, we will discuss what parents of children with disabilities should know when it comes to estate planning.
Understand the impact of government benefits
Government benefits, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are essential for many individuals with disabilities. However, these benefits are means-tested, which means that individuals must meet certain income and asset requirements to qualify. If a child with disabilities inherits assets directly, it could jeopardize their eligibility for government benefits.
To avoid this, parents should consider setting up a special needs trust for their child. This type of trust can hold assets for the benefit of the child, without affecting their eligibility for government benefits. The trust can be used to pay for expenses not covered by government benefits, such as education, travel, and recreation.
Choose the right trustee
Choosing the right trustee for a special needs trust is critical. The trustee will be responsible for managing the trust’s assets and making distributions to the beneficiary. It is essential to select a trustee who has experience working with individuals with disabilities and who understands the complex rules governing government benefits.
Parents may also want to consider naming a co-trustee or successor trustee in case the primary trustee is unable to serve. It is essential to have a backup plan in place to ensure that the child’s needs are always met.
Update beneficiary designations
Beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other financial accounts should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are up-to-date. Parents should ensure that their child with disabilities is named as a beneficiary of any accounts that will pass outside of probate.
If a child with disabilities is named as a beneficiary directly, it could affect their eligibility for government benefits. Instead, parents should consider naming the special needs trust as the beneficiary of these accounts.
Consider guardianship and conservatorship
Parents of children with disabilities should consider guardianship and conservatorship arrangements to ensure their child is protected and cared for in the event of their death or incapacity. Guardianship is a legal arrangement that grants a person the authority to make decisions on behalf of the child with disabilities, while conservatorship grants the authority to manage the child’s finances.
Parents should consult with an attorney who specializes in disability law to determine whether guardianship or conservatorship is appropriate and to ensure that the legal arrangements are in place before they are needed.
Communicate with family members
Open communication with family members is critical when planning for a child with disabilities. Parents should talk to family members about their plans and make sure everyone understands the child’s unique needs.
It is also essential to have a conversation with any potential caregivers to ensure they understand the child’s needs and are willing and able to provide the necessary care.
In conclusion, estate planning for parents of children with disabilities requires careful consideration of unique circumstances and requirements. Parents should work with an experienced attorney who specializes in disability law to ensure that their child’s needs are met and their wishes are carried out. With proper planning, parents can provide for their child’s long-term care and protect their eligibility for government benefits.