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Tips for Elder Law Attorneys on Counseling Parents of Children With Special Needs

Many parents of children with special needs do a great job attending to their children’s daily needs, but haven’t given any thought to planning for the day when they will no longer be around or no longer able to care for their children.

As an elder law attorney, you may have noticed clients who take this approach and don’t adequately plan for their children. A lot of parents of children with special needs haven’t even bothered to write a will, or to prepare any caregiver agreement documents to govern who will care for their children, and how, later on in life.

Elder law attorneys like yourself have the responsibility to discuss the unique needs of aging clients that have children with special needs. We found five legal strategies for estate planning for parents that you can share with your clients.

Estate planning strategies for parents of children with special needs

  1. Write a letter of intent. This is not in place of a will, but lists everything needed to care for a child with special needs. This includes names and contact information for all doctors, therapists, teachers or any other professionals they may see. This letter should also list the child’s likes, dislikes, and allergies. The letter can be included in a will but can stand alone until a will is written.
  2. Set up a special needs trust. This trust will serve to protect any assets that will pass on to the child. A supplemental care trust will provide a supplementary source of resources for the beneficiary in the event government benefits are exhausted. The assets in these trusts are not viewed as available resources for purposes of qualifying for needs-based benefits.
  3. Buy life insurance. The policy should be large enough to provide for the child after the parents are gone. Life insurance can also be used by families without significant assets to fund a special needs trust.
  4. Remove the child’s name from any assets. This helps ensure the child will not be disqualified for government benefits.
  5. Set up a guardianship for the adult child. Before the child is 18, the parents should file to be the adult child’s legal guardians. The parents should also designate guardians in event of their death. Designated guardians should have the capacity and discipline to care for the child.

These strategies can help parents provide for their child’s future while supporting their own peace of mind. Sharing these strategies and offering meaningful counsel to clients will help them prepare adequately for their children’s future.

If you are new to the Special Needs area, or would like to add this specialty area to your practice, we can help. ElderCounsel provides elder law resources and software for lawyers — including education, document drafting software, practice development systems and support. Our tools are designed to assist you in building and growing your practice.

For more information, please request a brief consultation, call us at (888) 789-9908, or email us at info@eldercounsel.com.

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