Having a child or grandchild with special needs means that you have to plan for their future in a way that most parents never do. In many cases, you can anticipate that the special needs individual in your family will outlive you, which means they will have a need for financial resources long after you're gone.
Instead of despairing over this issue, you can start planning now to provide a good quality of life and a safety net for a family member who is dependent on the care of others. The creation of a special needs trust with someone competent as a trustee is an ideal way to provide for a loved one long into the future.
What living situation do you expect them to have?
Determining how much money you need to set aside for a special needs loved one is going to depend, in no small part, on the living arrangements for that person. You may currently serve as the primary caregiver to your special needs child, which means that they live with you and you provide for all of their major needs, from transportation to community advocacy.
However, as you continue to age, you may no longer be able to fulfill those obligations. Are there other siblings in the family who would care for your special needs child? Are there members of your extended family who might do so, particularly if there is a trust in place that will pay them for their services?
Living in the family home will typically be more affordable and offer a better quality of life than living in an assisted living or adult foster care facility. Those facilities can cost thousands of dollars a month. It can also cost hundreds of dollars a day to bring skilled support staff into the home. You need to look at what you imagine the living circumstances will be and then calculate that cost over the rest of your child's life. Many times, the cost can be hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide residential care for someone for several decades.
You have options for funding a trust for a special needs family member
If the amount of money that it will require to support your loved one seems daunting, that doesn't mean your situation is hopeless. Far from it, in fact. There are many unique ways to fund a trust. For example, you can create a living trust that you begin to fund over the next few years. You can also have the balance of any retirement account left when you die immediately transferred into the trust. Proceeds from life insurance policies or the family home are also common assets used to fund a trust.
In some cases, you may also want to consider investing some or all of the funds intended for the special needs trust. In that scenario, the interest or annual payments from the investment would be what helps support your special needs family member, not the funds in the trust itself.
The exact condition of your loved one, as well as your age and current financial circumstances, will inform what amount you should plan to save and how best to allocate those funds. Partnering with an attorney who understands this complex but very important area of law in Georgia can help you make a plan that will protect your loved one even after you are gone.