What to Consider When Selecting Backup Financial Caregivers for A Special Needs Loved One

When planning for a loved one with special needs, it’s important not just to consider the here-and-now, but also the rest of their lives. Although it can be hard to think about, this includes, planning for a time when his or her parents or guardians are no longer alive.

It’s a scary thought, but not one without options. Chief among them, are Special Needs Trusts, a critical part of estate planning.

These trusts are legal arrangements designed to financially support special needs individuals without compromising their ability to qualify for valuable important government benefits. These benefits can include monies and benefits through Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. Further, the trust can outlive a parent or guardian and hold and manage property for special needs beneficiaries. This trust can provide for them but will not give them direct control over their assets if they lack the legal capacity to handle their own affairs.

Special Needs Trusts can be established at any time but will require a trustee to make decisions on the special needs person’s behalf. Often, a parent or guardian who knows the disabled individual best will first serve in this capacity.  Bear in mind, if the trust grows, it may become more complicated to manage. Furthermore, if parents or guardians can no longer serve as the trustee, or if they become ill or pass away, selecting the right back-up could be the single most impactful decision affecting the special needs person’s future.

Here are several questions to consider when choosing a back-up financial caregiver:

  • Does he or she understand the special need beneficiary’s situation and needs?
  • Can he or she maintain communication between the special need person, caregivers, and service providers?
  • Is he or she able to hire and regularly monitor agents and service providers?
  • Will he or she be able to pay bills, help secure housing, and medical care?

Other items that may require technical expertise, and involve a conversation with your estate planning and elder law attorney, include:

  • Becoming knowledgeable about the language and intent of the trust.
  • Establishing accounts for management of trust assets.
  • Collecting income and prudently managing  investment assets.
  • Receiving and conducting periodic inventories of trust assets.
  • Preparing and filing annual federal and state income tax returns.

This can be a lot to consider. Keep in mind a trustee does not have to be a family member or friend. A trustee can also be an independent professional, or even an institution like a bank or a trust company.  Choose wisely, whoever you select will have almost complete discretion about how to make payments and distributions from the trust on behalf of the disabled beneficiary. We know this article may raise more questions than it answers, please do not hesitate to contact us with your questions.

How to Protect Your School Age Children with Estate Planning

As a parent, nothing is more important than ensuring the well-being of your children. As difficult as it can be to prepare for your children’s lives in the event of your death, having a secure plan in place may help ease some of your worries. You can create a last will and testament and choose a guardian with legal authority to care for your children, but to ensure you leave behind a legacy that your children can continue throughout their lives, you may wish to consider creating a comprehensive estate plan.

Let us share with you some common questions our clients ask us about choosing a guardian and establishing an estate plan for the benefit of their children.

1. How do I know I have chosen the right person as my children’s guardian?

Choosing a person to care for your children in the event of your death should not be taken lightly. You need to feel comfortable that the person you choose shares your core values and understands your parenting goals. It is inevitable that your chosen guardian will have his or her own parenting style, but ideally, he or she will be respectful of the legacy you leave behind. Remember, circumstances change over time. It is important to regularly consider your selection and not to hesitate to make changes as needed.

2. Do I need to agree with my spouse about who to appoint as guardian?

It is essential that you and your spouse agree on your selection for guardian. An estate plan can provide you with a flexible outlet to outline both of your goals and wishes for your children’s care. With the guidance of your estate planning attorney, you can help avoid a scenario where one spouse is the “winner” of the argument of who to designate as your children’s guardian. Just as it is important for you and your guardian to be on the same page, you and your spouse should mutually agree on who that guardian should be.

3. Should I discuss creating an estate plan with an attorney?

The short answer? Absolutely. Estate planning is a complex area that is best discussed with an experienced attorney. He or she can provide you with information on all components of estate planning and suggest the best plan that fits your unique needs. Without the assistance of an estate planning attorney, you may not be aware of all the planning options available to you and the execution requirements in your state. While the attorney is available to provide you with legal advice, he or she can also act as a support system for you while you are navigating through this overwhelming time.

Did this article leave you with unanswered questions about leaving a legacy for your children? Do not wait to contact our office to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys. We are here to guide and support you through the estate planning process.

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