Estate planning is critical for families with loved ones with special needs in order to preserve needs-based governmental benefits and maximize the quality of life for loved ones with disabilities. Protect your loved ones today by taking the following important first steps:
Write a Memorandum of Intent/Letter of Intent
A letter of intent is a document prepared by you, the primary caretaker of a special needs child/loved one, to give direction to future caretakers regarding the care of your loved one in your absence. You should provide instruction regarding the specific emotional, physical, and medical needs of your loved one, as well as your hopes and desires for your loved one's future.
Establish a Special Needs Trust
A special needs trust is a special type of trust that allows a person under a physical or mental disability to have an unlimited amount of resources secured for his or her benefit, without disqualifying him/her from needs-based governmental benefits. In addition, a special needs trust can protect assets from predators and other individuals that may take advantage of a person with special needs.
Remove Child's/Loved One's Name from Assets
including retirement plans and life insurance policies
Your child/loved one should not be named as beneficiary, or contingent beneficiary, of any life insurance policy or retirement plan. It could jeopardize his/her eligibility to receive needs-based governmental benefits and leave the assets unprotected from potential predators.
Carefully Choose an Advocate/Care Manager and a Successor Trustee
Administering a special needs trust can be complicated. Be sure to choose someone who is familiar with public benefits or is willing to learn (to serve as trustee in your absence). In addition, you should select a care manager or advocate — someone to ensure the safety and emotional and physical well-being of your child in your absence.
Inform other Family Members about Your Special Needs Trust & Gifting
Be sure family members, such as grandparents, do not name your child directly as beneficiary of any trust, retirement plan or life insurance policy. Let them know you have established a special needs trust and they should gift to your child only through this trust.