First Posted: 2/22/2012
When you have a loved one with special needs, making plans for the future takes on a whole new level of complexity. You need to ensure your loved one is financially provided for throughout his or her life. But there are quality of life issues to consider as well, and knowing where to find the best support systems and resources is vital. That's why it's so important to engage professionals, both financial and legal, who have expertise in special needs issues.
Many attorneys have expertise in estate planning, but when selecting a professional to help determine the parameters of care for a loved one with special needs, you will want to be sure the individual has skill and expertise in:
Special needs and disability planning, including drafting of special needs trusts
Special education law
Guardianship and fiduciary services
Public benefits planning
Supplemental security income, Social Security survivors benefits, Medicaid and Medicare applications and appeals
Social Security disability appeals
Nursing home law and litigation
It can be emotionally difficult to plan for the care of a child or loved one with a disability following your death, but planning is the best way to protect your loved one's interests. Many people go no further than creating a will or family trust. However, if your child is unlikely to be self-sufficient in adulthood and will need Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other government benefits, an attorney knowledgeable in these areas will prove invaluable.
An inheritance is typically earmarked to address quality of life issues, not the basics of food, shelter, and health care. However, you may not realize that if a person with a disability has resources above a certain amount in his or her own name, or receives an outright inheritance above a certain amount, his or her government benefits, which are intended to provide for the basics of food, shelter, and health care, may be reduced or taken away because he or she exceeds the eligibility resource limits for these benefits.
An attorney with expertise in special needs law can help ensure your wishes are carried out. To begin your search for a qualified professional, the following sources may be helpful:
State Bar Associations or the American Bar Association
Local Disabilities Organizations
The Academy of Special Needs Planners, www.specialneedsanswers.com
The Special Needs Alliance, www.specialneedsalliance.org
When selecting a special needs attorney, make sure you find someone with whom you feel comfortable, since you will be discussing highly personal and emotional issues. Also, keep in mind that an attorney is only one member of a team of professionals you will want to employ when making your plans. A financial professional who can help you identify financial products and services to meet your needs is also a very important resource.
While it is easy to put off difficult decisions regarding the future care of a loved one with special needs, the peace of mind you will gain knowing that the proper safeguards are in place for the long-term will be well worth the effort.
Neither Prudential Financial, its affiliates, nor its licensed financial professionals, render tax or legal advice. Individuals should consult with an attorney, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning their particular circumstances.
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