Have you been thinking about estate planning more often than usual lately? As the parent of a special needs child, you may be feeling higher levels of anxiety regarding your child’s future care in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Completing your estate planning may provide the peace of mind you need during this uncertain time.
But where do you start?
What to consider
Estate planning for special needs children is an involved process. Not only are you planning to provide for your child after you are gone, you also must ensure that what you set up today does not make your child ineligible for public assistance in the future. Depending on your situation, you may want to speak with an experienced attorney for guidance.
Letter of intent
What kind of life do you see for your child? Create your letter of intent clearly stating your wishes. According to the Special Needs Alliance, a letter of intent – also called a letter of instruction – describes your child, their functioning abilities and routines. This letter also identifies your child’s resources, including services and doctors, and is considered a valuable tool for your trustee to refer to.
Make sure to include your child’s personal care needs and medical history. You’ll want to provide a copy of this letter to friends and family members you trust, as well as make sure to update it as needed.
Special needs trust
Your child may not currently be receiving public aid like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on your household income, but they very well may be eligible after you are gone. Keep in mind, however, that a simple inheritance may make them ineligible for public aid programs. For this reason, you’ll want to set up a special needs trust.
As part of the special needs trust process, you will select either a trusted family member or friend or a financial institution, such as a bank. You also have the option of selecting both. The special needs trust will allow your child to remain eligible for programs like Medicaid and SSI while also allowing you to provide for you child.
Planning your estate to provide for your special needs child may be an emotional experience, but completing the process may be the very thing that gives you the peace of mind you have been looking for.