In many ways, estate planning for special needs children is a balancing game. Too much annual income and principal, or too much monthly income, could negatively impact your child’s future eligibility for benefits. That is why estate planning and taking your time to understand the different ways you can provide for your child will help protect their funds.
Step 1: Organize Your Documentation
As you start looking at estate planning, gather up your child’s essential documentation, which might include their:
- Social security number or card
- Nicknames or other names
- Date and place of birth
- Birth certificate
- Financial information
- Medical records, providers, and history
As you collect this information, put it in a safe place like a filing cabinet or safe deposit box. That way, you’ll have everything in one place and ready to bring to your lawyer.
Step 2: Visit a Special Needs Estate Planning Lawyer
By visiting with an estate planning lawyer, you will ensure that your estate plan best serves your special needs child. Your lawyer will likely ask you to think about things such as:
- Medical plans for the future
- How your child’s healthcare should be handled after your death
- Financial arrangements in the event of your incapacity or death
- Your child’s conservatorship or guardianship, which allows the court to appoint an individual to take care of and make decisions for your child after your death
- Other pertinent information
Your attorney will likely ask you about your child’s current government benefits so they can help you preserve them. After they’ve gathered the necessary information for you, they will draft documents like your Durable Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, and a will or trust.
Step 3: Create a Special Needs Trust or Will
Another topic you and your attorney will cover is whether you want to create a Will or a Special Needs Trust (SNT). Both of these documents specify what will happen to your property at the time of your death. They also indicate how much of your estate should go to your special needs child.
A trust can be helpful for children who receive government benefits. Government programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have strict requirements about how much money a special needs person can hold while retaining eligibility. A special needs trust preserves these benefits by ensuring that your funds are held in trust for your child’s benefit rather than all being paid out at once. It allows your child to keep their benefits and still receive a monthly income or stipend on which to live.
Get Help Estate Planning for Special Needs Children
If you need assistance creating a special needs trust or understanding estate planning for special needs children, we at Salines-Mondello Law Firm, PC are here to help. Let our experienced team guide you through the estate planning process so you can rest assured that your special needs child is taken care of in the future.