The mere idea wrenches the heart of any parent: if untimely death or disability strikes, who will care for your children? Because no one is immortal, most of us recognize the need for an estate plan, preferably one that appoints a suitable guardian for our children, sees to their financial needs and avoids probate.
"A ward of the court" may sound like something out of the nineteenth century, but that's precisely what becomes of children whose legally disabled or deceased parents have failed to plan for their care. Unless you've created an estate plan that spells out who should assume responsibility for your child, the courts will step in.
Clearly, every parent has a responsibility to plan for the unthinkable. But when the child has physical, emotional or mental challenges, careful estate planning is even more crucial...
Depending on the degree of their disability, children with special needs may require specialized treatment that encompasses therapy, housing, education, adaptive equipment and in-home care, among many other costly services. The need for this care may extend throughout their childhood and potentially could last their entire lives. Estate planning is the only way to protect the child's financial interests today as well as in the future, when you may no longer be on the scene.
An estate plan is the only way to ensure that you can provide for your child without jeopardizing his or her eligibility for government and private benefit programs. In order to keep a disabled child eligible for important federal and state benefit programs, the child can have no assets. That leaves parents with a difficult choice: provide a legacy for their special child and hope it will be sufficient for all his needs, or make the child a virtual pauper and retain his eligibility for government assistance.
Fortunately, there is a simple answer within reach of nearly everyone: the Supplemental Needs Trust.
The Supplemental Needs Trust allows a parent, grandparent or guardian to provide funds for a disabled child without disrupting his or her eligibility for government aid. Working with your estate planning attorney, you appoint Trustees for your child's Supplemental Needs Trust. The Trustees will manage the assets you transfer to the trust for your child's benefit. In the event of your disability or death, the Trustees will also supervise your child's care according to the directions you set forth in the trust.
If you have a special needs child, there are specific planning steps that must be taken to ensure their well being. Please speak with one of our estate planning attorneys for more information.