Although legal planning documents such as a health care proxy, power of attorney, last will & testament, etc. are an important part of any estate plan, if you are the parent of a child with special needs, these standard estate planning documents may not be adequate. If your child will not be able to live independently or support him or herself as an adult, it is critical that you make special provisions in your estate plan.
If you are the parent of a child with special needs three essential documents to have as part of your estate plan are: a special needs trust, guardianship designation, and letter of intent.
- Special Needs Trust: In order to preserve your child’s eligibility for government benefits, such as Medicaid and SSI, a special needs trust should be created. This trust allows your estate to be passed to the trust for your child’s benefit instead of directly to them. Having a special needs trust will ensure that funds are properly managed for the child’s lifetime. If administered properly, the funds left to the trust will not be countable assets.
- Guardianship Designation: When a child turns 18, the law considers them as an adult—regardless of any disabilities he or she might have. Taking the time to carefully select a guardian for your child with special needs reduces uncertainty and stress for other family members after your death. Also, selecting someone your child knows, loves and trusts to be their guardian will be important for the easiest transition once you are no longer able to take care of your child.
- Letter of Intent: As a parent, you have gathered a lifetime’s worth of information about your child; their preferences, medical history, routines, etc. This information will be invaluable to your child’s future caregivers and trustees. This non-binding document captures this vital information about your child in one place.
Contact an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney to ensure you have the proper special needs planning in place to protect your loved ones and their future.
Russo Law Group, P.C.
100 Quentin Roosevelt Blvd., Suite 102
Garden City, NY 11530