For many people, the basics of estate planning are simple enough, but for those families with loved ones who are disabled or have special needs, the estate planning process is more involved – and definitely more critical.
The latest statistics show that five percent of minor children have some sort of disability, and the burden of caring for these children make estate planning essential. In addition to specialized health care, these children usually need special schooling and intensive therapy, all of which comes at a cost.
Here are some tips for parents facing the need to plan not only for their own financial future, but for that of a special needs child:
Deal with expectations. Parents need to think about the kind of life they envision for their child. Will the child have a shorter life span? Will he or she be able to work or live independently? The answers to these questions will form the foundation of your plan.
Determine eligibility for public benefits. In order to meet eligibility requirements for Medical Assistance and Social Security Supplemental Income programs, a person with special needs or other disabilities can only have minimal assets. This makes it imperative that a child who relies on those specialized services not have any assets of their own – meaning they should not be listed as beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement accounts or plans, in trusts, wills or pensions. It is also important that they not inherit property, even from well-intentioned family members like grandparents.
Consider a supplemental needs trust. Assets placed in a third-party supplemental needs trust are not counted as assets toward public benefit program eligibility. These trusts are governed by very strict rules so getting the advice of an experienced estate planning lawyer when establishing this type of trust is important. Parents who cannot afford to fund a special needs trust with cash while they are living can do so through life insurance proceeds after they die.
If you would like to have a talk about protecting your family through estate planning, call our office at (612) 206-3701 or fill out our contact form today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.
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