Chances are you know someone with special needs or know someone who has a family member with special needs. Such special needs can arise due to a mental or physical defect existing at birth or an injury occurring later in life due to an automobile accident, drug and/or alcohol abuse, injury on the job (including an injury suffered while serving in the military), or the onset of dementia.
Disabled Americans have access to several programs providing both emotional and financial support to help them and their families thrive. When you have a disabled person in your family, it is important to make sure that your own estate plans are crafted in such a way so that the disabled family member continues to have access to all such support programs.
Special Needs planning often includes protecting assets for the benefit of loved ones, who, for whatever reason, are not able to manage an inheritance properly OR would be negatively affected by the direct receipt of an inheritance.
A Wife with Dementia
A husband might come to see me if he is worried about his wife. She has been having some memory issues and is no longer able to manage money on her own. He and his wife have had several wonderful years together and he wants to make sure that her needs are met after he’s gone, but if he were to pass away first, what would she do with the family savings? Who will make sure the money is used properly for her care? Who will protect the assets from future long-term care costs?
A Paralyzed Son
A mother might come to see me if she is worried about her son. Her son was injured in a car accident a few years ago, which left him partially paralyzed. She has been taking care of him since the accident, but realizes that there may be a time in the near or distant future, when she cannot care for him like she is now. The mother wants her son to inherit from her, just as her other children will someday, but she also wants to make sure that he continues to enjoy the same governmental support that has helped them both cope since the accident. Who will take care of him after she’s gone? Who will make sure his inheritance from her is used properly for his care? Who will protect the assets from future long-term care costs?
An Autistic Granddaughter
Grandparents might come to see me if they are worried about their young granddaughter’s health care needs. Recently diagnosed with Autism, their oldest granddaughter’s future ability to manage her own health care decisions and finances is unknown. The grandparents want their children to inherit equally, but also want to make sure that if their granddaughter inherits directly from them, that their granddaughter’s inheritance is managed by someone that they trust. They want to make sure the funds are used specifically for her education and health care needs and NOT on frivolous things. If their granddaughter is already receiving governmental benefits, they certainly do not want to disrupt that!
Without proper planning in these situations, special needs beneficiaries (like the wife, the son, and the granddaughter, above) would likely NOT be entitled to as many support programs as they would otherwise receive. If ineligible due to poor planning (or no planning), the burden for providing equivalent services would fall to family and friends. Most clients want far more control over their futures and want to ensure that they do not become burdens on their family and friends.
If you or someone you know has a family member with special needs planning or special needs trusts, please have them reach out to us. Together, with proper insight and planning, we can minimize the strain that a special need might otherwise have on the family’s mental health and finances. We are your lawyers, every step of the way.