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Planning Tips for Parents of Special Needs Children

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Estate planning is a crucial and often overlooked aspect of financial and personal security for parents of special needs children. While all parents want to ensure the well-being of their children, those with special needs face unique challenges that require careful consideration and proactive planning. By engaging in comprehensive estate planning, parents can not only secure the financial future of their special needs child but also ensure their long-term care, access to necessary resources, and protection of their rights. From establishing guardianship to creating a special needs trust, estate planning provides a roadmap for parents to navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of disability laws, government benefits, and healthcare considerations. Ultimately, by embracing estate planning, parents can gain peace of mind knowing that they have taken the necessary steps to support their child's special needs both during their own lifetime and beyond.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

Create a Special Needs Trust: A special needs trust is a legal document that provides for your child's financial needs without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits like Medicaid, SSDI, or SSI. The trust can be used to pay for a wide range of expenses, including medical care, education, and recreation.

Choose the Right Trustee: Choosing the right trustee is critical when setting up a special needs trust. Pick someone who is trustworthy and has experience managing finances and consider a back-up trustee as well. You may also want to consider appointing a professional trustee, such as a bank or trust company.

Consider Guardianship: Guardianship is a legal process that gives you the authority to make decisions on behalf of your child once they reach adulthood. Often, this process gets puts off until it is too late, so it is of particular importance for parents of a special needs child to become formally appointed as guardians. This way the child receives the legal assistance needed with decision-making throughout their lives.

Review Your Estate Plan Regularly: Your estate plan should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that it reflects any changes in your circumstances or the law. This is especially important if you have a special needs child, as their needs may change over time.

Seek Professional Advice: Estate planning for special needs children can be complex, so it's essential to seek professional advice. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate the process and ensure that your child's needs are met.

If you are a parent of a special needs child in New York State, these tips can help you get started with estate planning. Remember, estate planning is a critical step in ensuring that your child is taken care of after you're gone, so don't delay in getting started.

About the Author

Leslie has been practicing law since 2009 and is the host of the estate planning podcast 'Legacy Purse'. She has a long history of representing family members struggling to inherit property and/or wealth from deceased family members through the Probate Courts. Knowing how time-consuming and expensive the probate process is, Leslie takes great pride in helping her clients learn how to plan and protect their families during their lives so they can avoid the probate court process and save their loved ones that additional grief (and expense).


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