If you are a parent, having a comprehensive estate plan in place is certainly important. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, however, estate planning takes on a heightened importance. The best way to ensure that your child is well cared for both now and after you are gone is to include special needs planning into your comprehensive estate plan.
The Cost of Care
Like most parents, you probably don’t dwell on the costs involved in raising your child; however, raising a child is certainly not cheap, and raising a child with special needs typically involves additional costs and expenses, such as:
- Specialized equipment
- Prescription medication
- Therapists (occupational, physical, speech etc.)
- Doctor visits
Not only do you face additional costs and expenses when you are raising a child with special needs, but there is a very good chance that your child will continue to incur these additional expenses after he or she reaches adulthood. It is often the expectation for the continued need to contribute to your child that prompts the need to include special needs planning into your estate plan.
Why Is Special Needs Planning Required?
Typically, gifting funds or assets to an adult child, either through your Last Will and Testament or through a trust, does not present a problem; however, in the case of a child with special needs, doing either can actually cause more harm than good. If your child depends on assistance from programs such as SSI, Food Stamps, or Medicaid, gifting anything of value to your child could threaten his/her eligibility for benefits from these programs. As you likely already know, many assistance programs have both an income and an asset test that applicants/recipients must pass to gain or retain eligibility. Without regard to your child’s physical and/or mental abilities and limitations, the law will treat your child as an adult once he/she has attained the age of majority (18). Consequently, anything you gift directly to your child will be counted for the purpose of determining eligibility for state and/or federal assistance programs. Your well-intentioned gift (and/or gifts from other family members), meant to provide continued financial support for your child, could ultimately have the opposite effect.
Special Needs Planning
The good news is that you can continue to provide financial support to your child by incorporating a special needs planning component into your overall estate plan. Within a properly drafted Revocable Living Trust, special needs planning can be incorporated allowing you to designate assets to be used for the care and maintenance of an individual with special needs without the risk of losing eligibility for state and federal assistance programs. The trust is intended to provide supplemental care over and above that which is provided by programs such as Medicaid and SSI. To ensure that a trust is recognized as a Special Needs Trust the trust agreement must include very specific language, hence the need to work closely with an experienced estate planning attorney during the creation of the trust agreement.
Contact a Special Needs Planning Estate Planning Lawyer
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about special needs planning, contact an experienced estate planning lawyer at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.