The heart of estate planning for most parents comes down to one thing – making decisions that they think will be best for their surviving children. Making these decisions can be especially challenging when one or more of the children has special needs. Not knowing how their child will fair after they are gone can be heart-wrenching.
The U.S. Census Bureau says that approximately 20% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 64 suffer from some type of physical, mental, or emotional impairment and, thanks to better medical care and technology today, most of these individuals will outlive their parents. For example, while the life expectancy of a child with Down Syndrome was only 25 years in 1983, today it is 60.
This means that if you are a parent of a child with special needs, you must begin to plan now for the personal, legal, and financial needs that may come up for your child after you are gone. But, at the same time, you must not compromise your other priorities, which include things like saving for retirement, caring for your other children, and funding their educations, just to name a few.
The Special Needs Planning Process
Caring for a child with special needs is a huge responsibility that comes with numerous challenges, including making sure that the child will be properly cared for throughout his or her entire lifetime. Getting all of the people who may care for your child or oversee his or her affairs to the table to establish a comprehensive strategy to meet your child’s needs, both now and in the future, is key to creating a solid plan. These decision-makers include:
- Your child’s personal caregivers, such as family members;
- Their doctors and teachers;
- Social services Case managers; and
- The lawyers and financial advisors that will help to create the legal and financial foundation for your child’s future.
The ultimate goal, of course, should be to ensure that your child’s future needs will be met in a coordinated effort. What’s more, by integrating special needs planning into your overall estate plan, you can create the framework for your entire family’s well-being.
Finally, the most essential tool for providing for a child with special needs is a Special Needs Trust. A properly executed Third Party Special Needs Trust will allow you to leave money exclusively for the benefit of your special needs child without jeopardizing critical government benefits that he or she may be receiving now and will ultimately need in the future.
Contact an Experienced Special Needs Planning Attorney for Help Getting Started
Integrated long-term planning can help to provide for your child with special needs while addressing your entire family’s needs and goals at the same time. Our law firm is sensitive to the issues that children with special needs and their families face. If you have any questions or wish to discuss special needs planning for your child, contact the law office of Sheri R. Abrams.
Written by Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law, one of America’s TOP Elder Law Attorneys with more than 20 years experience practicing Social Security Disability Law, Estate Planning, Elder Law and Special Needs Planning. Attorney Abrams and her firm are Featured in ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources to help families plan for and deal with the issues of Aging.