Special Needs Planning
Planning for now and the future.
If you have a family member with a disability or mental illness that may prevent him or her from being self-supportive, it is important to know that legal tools are available to protect your family member's needs in the short and long term. Attorney Liz Nielsen has worked with many clients who have family members with special needs. Our firm can help protect your loved one.
Providing for Your Loved One While Maintaining Government Benefits
A person with a disability may not be able to work so he or she may need financial and other assistance from a variety of government resources. However, many government programs will not assist people who have assets.
Many parents or other family members have the best of intentions when leaving a child or another loved one with special needs an inheritance or other assets. But often, due to incorrect planning, their loved one becomes ineligible for other benefits or loses a significant portion of his or her funds in the process. Failure to plan correctly for a loved one with special needs can have significant negative and unintended consequences.
To avoid this dilemma, it is important to include certain provisions in your estate plan that will enable a loved one with a disability to maintain eligibility for means-tested government benefits without having to forgo his or her inheritance. In addition, it is important to review common savings vehicles for children, like UTMAs, 529 plans, or traditional irrevocable trusts, that often cause a reduction or elimination of public benefits for a child with a disability when he or she reaches adulthood.
As a parent of a child with special needs, you are involved in your child’s medical, educational, and personal issues on a daily basis. When a child, even one with special needs, reaches the age of 18, they are presumed to be competent to make decisions. For some families who have a child with special needs, this is possible as long as specific steps are taken to ensure the parents can continue to assist their child make important decisions. However, for other families, the child with special needs is unable to make decisions on their own. In these cases, until you are legally appointed your child’s guardian, a parent’s ability to make decisions regarding medical treatment, money management and government benefits (i.e. social security) is uncertain.
Guardianship is the legal relationship between a parent and a person over the age of 18 who is unable to make medical and/or financial decisions for him or herself. It is important to consult with your doctor and legal counsel to determine if your child’s disability renders him or her incapable of making these decisions.
We Are Ready To Help
We are highly experienced and knowledgeable about special needs trusts and other available estate planning options for people with special needs and their families. We can also meet to discuss whether guardianship is right for your family, and if it is, we can help guide you through the guardianship court process. We advise regarding alternatives to guardianship, including Supported Decision Making Agreements. We know the processes involved in protecting people with special needs, and we will guide you through them with compassion and care.