Estate Planning for Those with Special Needs

According to the Special Needs Alliance, approximately 57 million adults in this country suffer from some form of a diagnosable mental illness. Excluding those illnesses caused entirely by substance abuse, almost 5 percent of those 57 million suffer from a serious mental disorder that causes substantial interference with daily and major life activities. Some of the disorders included in this list are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, manic depressive and dementia.

Typically, adults who suffer from these serious illnesses or other special needs disorders are unable to sustain consistent employment, and they receive government financial aid to cover their medical needs and other living expenses.

 When parents of special needs children set up their estate plan, careful attention needs to be paid to all aspects of how these plans will affect their children once the parents have died. An error or oversight could have serious consequences and cause the child to lose thier government aid.

Many legal experts suggest the first thing parents of special needs child should do is write what is referred to as a “letter of intent”. In the book, More than a Mom, a book written by a mother with a special needs child, the author shares a sample letter of intent. Included in the letter are lists of people who should be contacted if something should happen to the parents, the child’s current life situation, education, medical care, employment, behavioral management, social life and the identity of guardians or trustees named in estate planning documents.

Choosing the right attorney is critical to setting up any future planning. Make sure you choose an attorney who is familiar with setting up a Special Needs Trust. These trusts are set up so that your child’s government aid will not be affected.

Life insurance held by parents with a child with special needs must be carefully tailored in the planning process. Upon a parent’s death, the funds can be used to ensure that the child’s future needs are met, protecting the quality of care that is required. It is again critical that the beneficiary on the policy be updated if a Special Needs Trust that has been set up to protect any financial aid the child receives.

Making sure your child with special needs will be properly taken care of if something should happen to you is a great concern to parents. The rules and laws can be complicated. That is why it is important to have an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney help you plan for the future.

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