The Future and Security of your Son or Daughter
What Will Happen After I’m Gone?
Imagine for a moment that tomorrow evening, on your way home from a party, you and your spouse pass away in a car accident. Have you ever wondered what will happen to your child* with a disability after you are gone? Who will watch your child or who would be the guardian or trustee? Stop wondering. Through a very special planning process you can ensure that all these concerns are taken care of.
Estate and Financial Planning for a person with a disability is like no other type of planning-it is special. Imagine a process that will assure that your child with a disability will always have a friend, advocate and protector of their legal rights and insure that your child’s governmental benefits are never altered, diminished or destroyed as well as ensure that they will have a meaningful life after you are gone. This is what Special Needs Planning can accomplish.
Why a Will is NOT Enough
If you were to die with only a Will in place or no planning at all for your disabled child, any estate left to your child is, in reality, a gift to the government! Your child will lose his or her benefits and medical coverage while spending down your well-intentioned inheritance. It is a gift to the government instead of your child. Unfortunately this knowledge has led most parents to intentionally disinherit their child with a disability.
The Perfect Solution: The Special Needs Trust
There is an alternative to the harsh realities of a Will-it is the Special Needs Trust (SNT). The Special Needs Trust is the ONLY reliable method to make sure your inheritance and gifts benefit your child with a disability. The point of the SNT is to keep the assets in a form that will be available for your child but will not disqualify him or her from benefits for which he or she might be eligible
A properly drafted Special Needs Estate and Financial Plan will specify that the money is not to replace the benefits, but is to supplement them and ensure that funding is available to meet your goals. The SNT may be used for extra medical care, personal items such as TV’s, radios, computers, vacations, companionship, advocates or any other item or service to enhance your child’s self-esteem or situation-anything but food, clothing and shelter.
While government agencies recognize SNTs, they have imposed very strict rules upon them. This is why it is vital that you consult an experienced attorney-not just one who does general estate planning, but one who is knowledgeable in SNTs and current benefit law! One wrong word or phrase can make the difference between an inheritance that benefits your child and one that causes your child to lose the many services, assistance and benefits available.
The Letter of Guidance
Almost as important as the SNT is the Letter of Guidance. The Letter of Guidance helps pave your child’s transition by giving future caregivers the information about your child they so vitally need. A Letter of Guidance is based on the premise that no one knows your child better than you do. It is a document that describes your child’s history, current status and what your wishes, hopes and dreams are for him or her.
The Letter of Guidance addresses the following areas:
- Family History
- Medical History
- Rights & Values
- Leisure & Recreation
- Likes & Dislikes
- Day Programs//Work
- Daily Routine
- Daily Living Skills
When Should I Plan?
The answer is simple. Start Now. Start Today. Procrastination is easy-when your health is good, the future looks bright and there are hundreds of other pressing tasks to be done. Yet none of us can predict the future. What will happen to your child if something happens to you? Plan NOW and say to yourself, “I know I’ve done all I can for my child’s future-something that was extremely important to do. Now I am relieved and that is very exciting!”
Special Needs Planning – With Special Needs Estate and Financial Planning you can Provide a Meaningful Life for your Loved One with a Disability After you are Gone.
- Provides Lifetime Supervision and Care
- Maintains Government Benefits
- Provides Supplemental and Special Needs Benefits
- Avoids Family Conflict
One Parent’s thoughts about Planning:
One parent shared their experience about how they felt about planning as follows: It has been in the back of my mind for years, soon after I found my son had this lifelong disability. What would the future hold for him when I wasn’t there anymore to be his advocate, friend and supporter? It was both a big and little worry. Big, because it gave me a whole in my gut whenever the question crept in. And little in the sense that I tried not to think about it. I’d think I’ll worry about that tomorrow, next week, when he’s older, when I’m older.
Of course, I’ve done things to prepare for that future he’s going to have without me, things like teaching him how to wash clothes and shop. But should I write a will? Make an estate plan? No, for years, I dodged that one totally. But you know, it’s funny. Now that we’re finished up our estate and only need to periodically review our plans, I feel like an enormous burden has been lifted up from me. The big, black, scary, shadow is gone. Well, not totally gone, I suppose. I still worry about Sam, what will happen to him in his life. I guess every parent does that. But now I don’t worry the same way. I have done all I can do for that part of his future, something that was extremely important to do, and I am very relieved. Now I feel like we can deal fully with the present day and see to see the other things that need to be done to prepare for our child as an adult. And that is very exciting.
Don L. Rosenberg, Attorney and Counselor
The Center for Elder Law
Troy, Michigan 48098