While some families are planning for college, first cars or wedding expenses, the parents of children with severe developmental challenges are worrying about providing for their child’s future after they are gone.
While the realization your child will never be able to live independently is devastating, a solid financial plan and guardianship directive can offer some peace of mind.
The first step, according to Linda M. Anderson, a member of the Special Needs Alliance and Certified Elder Law Attorney, is to contact an attorney to create a ‘safety net.’ “The traditional elements of an estate plan, a Will, Financial Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will become all the more important when planning for a special needs child.” These documents will ensure that your wishes for your child’s future are honored.
A carefully constructed trust, a Supplemental Special Needs Trust, can help your child today and in the future. A Supplemental SNT allows your child to receive funds without jeopardizing his or her essential government benefits, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.
For extended family or friends, it’s a way to help provide care. It allows grandparents to offer the same monetary gifts to all of their grandchildren with no fears of showing ‘favorites.’ Aunts and uncles contributing to a sibling’s educational fund could offer equal contributions to the Trust.
Families struggling financially often delay creating a trust, thinking ‘If there’s no money to contribute now, why bother?’ An SNT can be made the beneficiary of your life insurance policy and your estate, making sure those assets don't get passed directly to your child when you die, rending him ineligible for federal benefits such as SSI. While the Special Needs Fairness Act allows your child or a guardian to establish a trust after the fact, but it takes time, adds expense and can result in interrupted benefits.
Financial and estate planning is not inexpensive and you’ll want an attorney experienced in Special Need Trusts and Disability Exempt Trusts. The Special Needs Alliance
( https://www.specialneedsalliance.org/ ) can help with referrals in your area. Your local bar association can also make recommendations. Don’t forget, your local autism service provider may offer workshops and referrals, too.
Lora Lewis is a multi-platform content creator who covers a wide variety of topics and loves the art of conversation.