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Special Needs Estate Planning

As children get older so do their parents (believe it or not!). No one likes to think of his/her own mortality. Effective planning well in advance will ensure that parents’ intentions of providing some financial resources to their children will be realized without jeopardizing other resources and supports that they will need in order to live as independently as possible. Parents share a common bond – a child who has special needs. The care giving concerns presented to parents necessitate different requirements for estate planning. Although simple wills and guardianship determination may protect your other children, special preparation must be made for families who have children with disabilities. Good financial/estate planning always has as its goal lessening the burden on surviving members who are trying to carry out the descendant’s wishes. This is particularly important for all concerned when there is a family member who has a disability.

It is essential to research wills and trusts to provide you with a comprehensive plan to address your own special needs for your family. If assets, investments, insurances, and estate plans are properly coordinated ahead of time, families will not be forced to make compromising decisions in a crisis. Who will take care of the finances for my child? Will my/their assets disqualify my child for services and support? Will the people that I want be willing to manage the finances and decisions that will need to be made for my child? Without proper planning, it is possible that others (including the state) will make decisions for your child that are contrary to your intentions.

In order to preserve financial benefits (ex. Supplemental Security Income, MaineCare) many families develop a special needs trust. A special needs trust will allow for inheritance or other resources to be used to augment rather than disqualify someone for other financial benefits.

When developing the long term financial plan for your child, it is essential to be working with an attorney who has experience in developing a plan on behalf of someone with a disability. Some families have been faced with negative financial consequences when a financial plan has not been developed properly. Do not hesitate to ask a potential attorney with whom you might be working what their experience has been in developing financial plans for a person with a disability.

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Introduction | Federal Definition of Transition Services
Transition Planning | Critical Connections | Other Useful Information