All parents should consider the futures of their children in their estate planning. However, there are some special considerations parents of children with disabilities must address when putting together their wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents.
At the outset of your estate planning process, speak with your attorney in detail about the disability in question, the abilities and limitations your child has and the types of government benefit your child currently receives.
Below are a few aspects of your estate plan you should consider for your children with disabilities:
- Guardianship: Review the details of your child’s custody. Your chosen guardian must handle your child’s financial or health care decisions after you have passed away. If you do not have such an arrangement for your child after your death, the state will be in charge of appointing one. Given how familiar you are with your child’s disabilities, you are far more likely to have a clear understanding of the skills and characteristics a guardian must have to succeed in caring for your child.
- Special needs trust: A special needs trust is a special type of estate planning tool that allows you to continue providing for your disabled child after your death. A failure to properly plan could lead to your child losing his or her Social Security Income and/or MediCal eligibility. Your chosen trustee will have discretion over the property in the trust, which will end at the point it is no longer needed. This is usually upon the death of the beneficiary or the exhaustion of trust assets.
- Will: If you have other children, you might consider leaving behind assets or planning your estate in a way that gives those individuals a shared responsibility in managing assets left behind for your disabled child. You may implement specific clauses and guidelines in your will to ensure certain assets get managed appropriately for the benefit of that child.
- Updates: It’s important to continually update your estate plan as the circumstances of your life change—including the circumstances of your child’s disability. If the child’s disability worsens, for example, you might need to add to or adjust your estate plan to account it.
- Collect information: In addition to the various estate planning documents you establish to provide for your child’s needs, be sure to obtain all the important information you need regarding your child’s care so that your chosen guardian does not have to search for it. This includes emergency contact information, medical providers, medical history and financial information.
An estate planning attorney in California will provide you with more information and guidance on how to best plan for your child with special needs.
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