Raising special needs children carries with it an added measure of consideration given not only to the emotional needs of your family, but to the ongoing elements of financial planning required. Special needs attorneys exist to help educate and smooth the path when taking on these responsibilities. Here are some of the most important tips to remember when considering financial planning for your special needs children:
1. Create A Letter of Intent
Gather thorough information about the life you and your family are providing. There will undoubtedly be unique elements to your daily routine that should be recorded. Write a detailed letter describing matters such as which doctors your child visits, medical history, their regular schedule of activities, and who you would like to be the legal guardian after you’re gone. A letter of intent is not a legally binding document, but it can give trustees and the courts a sense of which path you feel is best for your child. Update this letter once each year, and keep it with your essential family documents.
2. Draft a Special Needs Trust
Creating a Supplemental Special Needs Trust (SSNT) will be one of the most important steps in providing for the ongoing financial wellbeing of your child. Avoid the pitfall of putting savings or financial gifts into an account bearing your child’s name. By doing this, the ability for him or her to qualify for federal benefits like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) dramatically changes once listed assets reach $2,000 or more. A special needs trust allows you to allocate funds for your child’s future. Even if you don’t currently have the income to regularly direct into the trust, you can still designate the trust as a beneficiary of your estate and life insurance policy.
3. Bring Aboard A Special Care Planner
Many professionals are dedicated to assisting you with planning for the future care of your special needs child. Generating a game plan for the future needs of your child requires a vast knowledge of government benefit eligibility, federal laws, and the extensive matrix of legal documents you’ll need to become acquainted with. This can be a daunting task to add to your focused family energy. A special care planner, often a special needs attorney, is an essential resource to guide you through the steps to set up a future of comfort and care for your child.
4. File to become Legal Guardians
When your special needs child turns 18 or 21 (depending on the state), parents must file for legal guardianship through the courts. Legal guardianship gives the parents the legal right to continue to make decisions on behalf of their special needs child for housing, food, clothing, healthcare and beyond.
5. Write a Valid Will, Correctly
Parents of special needs children must have a valid will in place. Since the default for most states names each of your children as heirs to part of your state, remember, this could make your special needs child ineligible for federal aid. For this reason, both parents should draft wills to reflect that the special needs trust becomes the beneficiary of the portion of the estate allocated for the special needs child.
A special needs attorney and planner can help guide you through benefits like the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Medicare, Medicaid, or Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN). Contact the experienced special needs attorneys at Christopher B. Johnson Law today!