Parents of special needs children have unique considerations when estate planning. Depending on the extent of the child’s needs, arrangements for their long-term care, housing and financial well-being should be considered as part of the estate planning process. Here is some information on how Massachusetts parents with special needs children should approach these issues.
Most often, a special needs trust is used by parents whose children receive government benefits (for example, Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid). Using a trust allows parents to name a trustee to oversee the funds, so the child can access the funds as needed in order to maximize the benefits. Life insurance is also something many parents in this situation may consider to supplement these funds.
Depending on the child’s needs, they may require certain supports in order to live to their fullest. For example, a home care worker may be employed to help with household management and personal care, or transportation to appointments and activities will need to be arranged. If the child is unable to manage their own affairs, a court-appointed conservator can help oversee these supports. A person with power of attorney could also help with this. It is imperative that parents leave documentation to support this individual’s activities, including family medical history, routines, benefits and the child’s preferences.
Some special needs children are able to live independently with certain supports. Other living arrangements may include a retirement community or a privately arranged roommate-type relationship with another special needs person or persons. Whatever is chosen, it is important to clearly document the decision and clarify how it should be paid for after the parents pass away.
Understandably, making estate planning arrangements with a special needs child can sometimes feel quite overwhelming. It can help to take a “team” approach, working with a financial advisor, lawyer and caregiving supports to ensure everything is clearly set up. Contacting a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer who can explain a special needs trust, conservatorship and other critical issues to this type of estate planning is an important first step.