If you are the parent of a child with special needs, addressing your child’s needs in your estate plan is the best way to ensure that your child is protected both during your lifetime and after you are gone. By including a special needs planning component in your comprehensive estate plan now you can provide much-needed legal and financial protection for your child. The Bellevue special needs planning attorneys at Legacy Estate Planning, LLC discuss estate planning for the parents of children with special needs.
Parenting a Child with Special Needs
As the parent of a child with special needs, you understand the unconditional love and joy these unique children bring to the lives of those with whom they interact. You are also familiar with relatively of the high cost of raising a child with special needs. Doctor and hospital bills, special equipment, therapy, and other expenses add up quickly. While many children with special needs go on to live relatively independent lives as adults, a significant percentage will continue to need financial assistance when they reach adulthood. As a parent, you undoubtedly want to ensure that your child is well cared for, medically, emotionally, and financially even after you are no longer here to supervise that care. Your concern for your child may lead to questions, such as:
- Can you continue to make medical and financial decisions for your child once he/she is an adult?
- How can you ensure enough money is left behind should your child require a lifetime of care?
- Who would raise your child if something unexpectedly happened to you and/or your spouse?
- What happens when your child turns 18 and becomes an adult in the eyes of the law?
- How do you leave funds for the benefit of the child without causing the child to lose important public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid?
- How can you ensure your child is not taken advantage of once you are no longer here?
What Is Special Needs Planning?
Fortunately, it is possible to ensure your child’s wellbeing and provide for your child’s financial stability after you are gone by incorporating special needs planning strategies and tools into your overall estate plan. One of the most common tools parents use as part of a special needs planning component is a Special Needs Trust (SNT). As you may already know, eligibility for most government assistance programs such as SSI and Medicaid is dependent on the participant’s income and assets. For this reason, you must be careful about gifting assets directly to your child, both while you are alive and upon your death.
Creating an SNT allows you (and other family members) to designate assets to be used for your child’s benefit without those assets counting against your child when determining eligibility for assistance. It also allows you to appoint a Trustee to manage and protect those assets after you are gone. You may also need to become your child’s legal guardian when he/she turns 18 to have the legal authority to make decisions for your child. As your child’s guardian you will be better able to protect your child from anyone who might try to take advantage of him/her and be able to step in when necessary to help your child make important decisions.
A Special Needs Trust can be a first-party or a third-party trust. A third-party SNT is established by the third party with assets of the third party for the benefit of a person with a disability or with special needs. A first-party, or self-settled, SNT is established using the assets of the disabled individual or person with special needs. For a trust to be recognized by state and federal assistance programs as a Special Needs Trust it must include very specific language and be properly structured.
Contact Bellevue Special Needs Planning Attorneys
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding special needs planning, contact the experienced Bellevue special needs planning attorneys at Legacy Estate Planning, LLC by calling (425) 455-6788 to schedule an appointment.