When you have a special needs child, you must plan for the care of the child – or adult child – should something happen to you. However, if the adult child has public benefits, leaving your estate to the child could affect the child’s benefits. That being said, there are certain estate planning methods you can use so as not to sacrifice the public benefits. You should also keep in mind that having a backup plan is important as the status of public benefits could change later.

What Is Special Needs Planning?

Special needs planning is creating an estate plan that includes methods to ensure your special needs child is cared for should something happen to you. Whether you become incapacitated because of an accident or an illness or you pass away, you’ll have to find a way to ensure your child is taken care of, both financially and medically.

What Is Involved in Special Needs Planning?

You must keep several factors in mind when estate planning for a special needs child. One of the most important factors is that if you leave too much for your child, the child’s benefits will stop. You also have to keep the feelings of your other children in mind. If you leave more for the special needs child, your other children might feel slighted. If you leave nothing to the special needs child but expect your tother children to set aside money and assets the special needs child and one sibling doesn’t, it could cause a rift between the children.

You can avoid these issues by setting up a care plan and working with an estate planning attorney to set up a trust for a special needs child. You should also speak to your children and others to find out who would take over the care of your special needs child. The guardian you name does not have to be the same person who manages the trust.

Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust allows a trustee to manage assets in the trust for your special needs child. The trustee can disburse funds for certain reasons without affecting your special needs child’s public benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, public housing, or other programs.

When you set up the trust, you choose a trustee you can trust. Your special needs child is the beneficiary. You can set up a payback trust that pays the public benefits back out of the trust when the beneficiary dies, or you can choose a third-party trust that does not include a payback provision.

Care Plan

A care plan is a letter to the person you choose to care for your special needs child when you can no longer do it. The care plan can include anything you want. A good place to start is to outline your special needs child’s schedule, what medications the child is on, a list of foods to avoid, appointments, and what to do should an emergency arise.

A care plan also helps when you have others helping you care for your child. Your special needs child’s doctors, therapists, nurses, teachers, relatives, friends, and other people who interact with your child every day should have a copy of the care plan.

ABLE Account

An ABLE account is an attainable savings plan. The account provides you a way to save for certain disability expenses. As of 2021, you can contribute up to $15,000 per year. The ABLE account is a tax-advantaged savings account created under the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014. The account allows you to shield contributions from your special needs child’s public benefits, so the money is not counted toward the resource limit. If the contributions are after-tax, the money in the account grows tax-deferred. You can use the money – tax-free – for food, rent, transportation, employment training, education, health care, and personal support services.

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As with most things in life, the more prepared you are, the better off you’ll be. 

Whether you already have a special needs trust or care plan in place that need to be updated, or you are getting started for the first time, you have come to the right place.

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When Should I Start Special Needs Planning?

Because you cannot see into the future to know if something will happen to you, it is best to start your estate planning as soon as possible. Not only will you protect your special needs child, but you will also protect your assets and avoid probate, depending on how you set up your estate. When you put your assets into a trust, the trustee can manage your assets should you become incapacitated. When you recover, you can take back control if you set up the estate properly. More importantly, you can leave instructions via the trust for taking care of your special needs child.

How Can a Lawyer Help with Special Needs Planning?

The law provides for many ways to manage an estate while you are alive and after you die. An estate planning attorney can help you determine which vehicles are best for your circumstances. The attorney can also help you set up a guardianship recommendation for your special needs child.

Finding the Best Worcester Special Needs Planning Lawyer for You

Reach out to a Worcester special needs planning attorney to set up a consultation to discuss future plans for yourself and your special needs child.

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