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Caring for special needs children through estate planning

Many St. Paul parents understand the importance of making sound decisions in raising their children. This may be particularly true for those who have a special needs child, as those parents face a different set of challenges and planning.

While parents of special needs children may be primarily focused on making things happen day by day, it is essential that parents consider long-term planning for their child as well. In particular, parents should understand how their estate planning focus should change when a special needs child must be considered.

One key issue in estate planning for those with a special needs child is proper trust planning. Individuals can establish a special needs trust that will preserve the child's qualification for government assistance and ensure they receive what they need. This will avoid the situation where a special needs child is left assets through a will, which could disqualify the child for programs like Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid or others.

Even for those not concerned about government assistance, a special needs trust makes sense to target the individual needs of the child. In setting up a special needs trust, individuals will direct a trustee to manage the trust property for the benefit of the child. These trustees could be family members or a third party, with the best fit being a personal decision based on who can best manage the property on behalf of the child.

While special needs trusts can be wonderful things for the child, the trust must be established through specific wording and direction. Accordingly, individuals should work with a qualified estate planning attorney to determine whether a special needs trust is a good fit for them, and how to best create the trust.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Plan for the future care of your special needs child -- the right way," Elise Rodriguez, Dec. 20, 2013

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