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Estate Planning Considerations for Families with Special Needs Children

Families with special needs children must exercise special care when creating their estate plans. While planning considerations for children with special needs varies depending on their age, competency, and family situations, the objective always remains the same – creating a trust that can care and provide for the child.

Since special needs children need ongoing medical care, families must come up with strategic plans that cover the costs of any and all necessary services.

Parents take different approaches when it comes to creating an estate plan that secures their child’s future. Some parents pass on their inheritance to their other children, hoping that they’d use the estate to care for their siblings with special needs.

This approach is risky. If a beneficiary gets into debt or files for a divorce or bankruptcy and does not have enough personal funds to pay off their debt or falls behind on spousal support payments, their creditors can make claims against the estate.

The estate’s assets could be utilized to pay valid claims. No parent would want an inheritance that they set aside for their child to be split between different parties.

Some parents leave an inheritance to their special needs children. However, there is a basic flaw in this approach. If a special needs child inherits an estate, they may be ineligible for Medicaid or other government assistance. This will affect their ability to obtain assisted living, vocational training, or other personal benefits including home health aides.

If you have a special needs child, your estate planning attorneys in Santa Rosa may recommend creating a Special Needs Trust designed to ensure that your child will be provided for no matter what the future holds, without affecting their ability to obtain government assistance.

The assets will be held in the trust and will be administered strictly. A Special Needs Trust will help ensure a pool of funds will be available to your child in the event public funding is restricted or the government decides to cease funding assistance programs.

Assets held in a Special Needs Trust are not available to the child. Instead, the child gets a fixed monthly allowance. A Special Needs Trust must restrict the amount that the trustee can give to the child. The creator must also appoint a trustee.

Many attorneys recommend appointing an independent, non-family trustee, as a family member might consider the assets placed in the trust to be their own.

At Johnston Thomas Law, we know the ins and outs of the estate planning process. Our attorneys use their know-how and experience to create estate plans tailored to our client’s specific needs. To get more details, call (707) 545-6542.

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