Planning for future care needs when you have a child with special needs can be stressful. Whether your child was born with a disability, experienced a traumatic brain injury, or is a veteran with mental health issues, all disabled people deserve to have their future planned out and protected. My firm the Law Offices of Jonathan G Stein wants to help parents take the necessary steps to provide a secure financial future for their loved ones.
The first legal tool that can help create a secure future for your child with disabilities is a Special Needs Trust. Just about every person with special needs can benefit by having this resource set up on their behalf. It essentially holds assets and money for the person with disabilities without them being in his or her name. This allows the person to benefit from the resources in the trust without jeopardizing his or her ability to qualify for needs-based benefits like Medicaid or SSI. An additional benefit is that family members can contribute directly to your child’s trust if it’s set up a certain way.
If you decide to create a Special Needs Trust, make sure you understand what the trust is allowed to cover financially. For example, rent and food should not be paid for out of your child’s trust. The “extras” your child needs, like recreational expenses, a modified vehicle, etc. can be paid for out of the trust. Your lawyer will go over what should and should not come out of trust assets for your child’s protection.
After the trust is created, you’ll need to decide who will serve as Trustee. This person will be charged with managing the assets in the trust and making decisions about your child’s future care. While a parent can initially serve in this role, it’s important to choose a successor trustee (normally a family member or close loved one) who can step into the role if the parent passes away or becomes unable to serve. You may also choose a professional trustee, such as a bank or attorney.
Another helpful tool is to start an ABLE (Achieve a Better Life Experience) account for your child. ABLE accounts were established as another way of helping younger people with disabilities save money without forfeiting benefits. To qualify, the person must have become disabled before age 26, and there are yearly contribution limits that must be adhered to.
Of course, there are additional tools that a special needs lawyers may suggest to protect your child’s well-being, such as applying for a full or limited guardianship/conservatorship. Alternatively, in cases where an adult child is high functioning, you may also be able to create a power of attorney and healthcare directive instead for the legal right to communicate with doctors and financial professionals on your child’s behalf while still maintaining his or her legal autonomy.
Here at The Law Offices of Jonathan G Stein, I strive to help my clients utilize every option and resource available to meet the unique needs of their families. If you would like to learn more about special needs planning and how I may be able to assist you, contact me at 916.801.4132 to schedule a consultation.