If you have a family member with special needs, it is important to factor him or her into your estate planning. In fact, there are “special needs trusts” or “supplemental needs trusts” which can be created specifically for this purpose.
Working with a special needs lawyer is the best way to make sure that you are setting your loved one up to be cared for when you are no longer able to do so yourself.
Special needs trusts can be set up and funded in numerous ways. The special needs trust can be either revocable or irrevocable and can spring to life upon your passing or be set up during your life. Much will depend on how the trust will be funded. If you are the only one to contribute then a trust that springs to life upon your death may be the best choice.
If other family members, such as grandparent, aunts or uncles will also be contributing to the trust then it makes the most sense to create the trust now. If you are sure that the parents will be the only contributors, then you might want to consider a revocable trust, as it can be changed throughout your lifetime to reflect the choices you want to make over the course of time.
One of the biggest considerations that need to be made is who will be the trustee. This is the person who will administer the trust which has been created to care for your loved one. Careful thought needs to go into choosing this person, as he or she will have a significant impact on the life of the person cared for by the trust. The trustee will also have access to funds and will make a lot of important decisions.
Your special needs lawyer can help you to define the role of this person through your legal documents, but you still want to choose someone who is trustworthy and has your loved one’s best interests at heart. He or she should also be very familiar with the specific needs of the person they will be responsible for, which could range from medical concerns to favorite foods and hobbies.
Additionally, you want to choose someone who has the ability to create and execute a reasonable budget. One option is to name both a family member and a professional as co-trustees.
Of course, determining how much money needs to go into the trust is another major concern. There are so many factors to take into consideration. Remember that costs will likely continue to rise over time, so basing totals on today’s costs will likely not be adequate. This is yet another reason that it makes sense to work with a special needs lawyer. He or she will be familiar with many of the most common costs but will also be able to personalize the special needs trust so it is a good fit for your particular situation.
You may find that there are some one-size-fits-all special needs trust planning tools online, but this is an area where that option is really not a good idea. No one has to tell the parent of a special needs child that every situation is considerably different. Instead, choose a qualified special needs lawyer for the peace of mind knowing that your child will always be cared for and protected in your absence.
I invite you to call for a free appointment to learn how you can protect your family and your assets. Also, if you have any questions or comments, you’re welcome to call me at 303-974-4400. I’ll be pleased to speak with you over the telephone without charge.