Estate Planning Strategies for Families with Special Needs Children

Providing for a special needs child in your estate plan requires careful consideration to ensure their long-term welfare and financial security without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Here is a general guide on how to approach this:

Special/Supplemental Needs Trust (SNT): Establish a Special/Supplemental Needs Trust to hold assets for the benefit of your child without disqualifying them from receiving government assistance. A SNT allows you to set aside funds that will be managed by a trustee for the child’s expenses that government benefits do not cover. There are two main types of SNTs: a Third-Party SNT (funded by someone other than the beneficiary) and a First-Party SNT (funded by assets belonging to the beneficiary).

Choose a Trustee Wisely: Select a trustworthy and capable trustee who understands your child’s needs and can manage the trust’s assets effectively. This can be a family member, friend, or professional such as an attorney or a financial institution.

Letter of Intent: Write a detailed letter of intent to serve as a guide for the trustee, caregivers, and future guardians, outlining the child’s history, medical needs, preferences, routines, and your wishes for their care and quality of life.

Guardianship Considerations: If your child needs ongoing decision-making support, consider establishing legal guardianship or conservatorship for when they turn eighteen. Alternatively, explore less restrictive options like supported decision-making agreements or powers of attorney, depending on your child’s capability to make decisions.

Coordinate with Family Members: Ensure that other family members who might wish to leave assets to your special needs child do so through the Special Needs Trust rather than direct inheritances that could disqualify them from government benefits.

Review and Update Regularly: Regularly review and update your estate plan to reflect changes in your child’s needs, your financial situation, and laws that might affect your child’s benefits and care.

Professional Guidance: Given the complexities involved, it is crucial to collaborate with professionals who specialize in special needs planning. This can include estate planning attorneys, financial planners, and tax advisors who can provide tailored advice and ensure that your estate plan best serves your child’s long-term needs.

If you are ready to secure your special needs child’s future within your estate plan, reach out to our office. We can help navigate the complexities of special needs planning and ensure that your estate plan fully supports your child’s long-term well-being and financial security. Call Wilson Law PLC at 866-603-5976 or fill out our contact form and we will be in touch to schedule a meeting.