Estate Planning Must-Haves for Parents of Children with Special Needs

A solid estate plan is vital when considering the future of your loved ones. After all, you want to ensure that they are protected and provided for even when you are no longer there to do it personally. A standard estate plan will cover the basics, including wills, trusts, power of attorney and health care proxy – but sometimes circumstances require additional estate planning considerations. One such circumstance is considering the care of a child or grandchild with special needs.  In these cases, the child may need care and support that surpasses financial concerns. If you are the parent, guardian or grandparent of a child with special needs then it is not only vital for you to have an estate plan, but that you also make additional provisions for the child’s future. In order to do this, there are three documents that will be integral to your estate plan.

While all estate plans should include a Guardian Nomination for minor children, this designation requires an additional stipulation when your child has special needs that will impact their adulthood as well. By law, children become legal adults at 18 – even if they may have special needs that prevent them from being able to fully care for themselves. While it should only be considered when absolutely necessary for the child’s welfare, a guardian nomination can be named in Massachusetts for adult children with disabilities.

Second, while it is not a legally binding document, a Letter of Intent can be extremely helpful for future guardians or caretakers. The letter, which can be included with your estate planning documents, can give special instructions regarding the care of the individual, including their preferred routine, likes, dislikes, medical history and any other information that may be of future use.

Lastly, a Special Needs Trust should be created to provide for the child financially. This trust would ensure that funds will be available for the care of your child throughout their lifetime. This document is important, not only for your child’s financial security, but also as a way to preserve your child’s eligibility for much-needed benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There is a maximum monthly income for eligibility for such benefits, and without a properly administered special needs trust, your child could be left with too much income to maintain eligibility for services necessary to maintain the child’s quality of life.

The experienced and knowledgeable family law and estate planning attorneys at Fields and Dennis can prepare a sound estate plan for the future security of your loved ones, including considerations for children and grandchildren with special needs. We understand the importance of these documents, and can guide you through the process with compassion and expertise.