There are close to 59 million children who are disabled in the U.S. For parents, it presents a unique challenge in that it often equates to a lifelong situation where the child remains dependent on his parents. For these parents, it’s especially overwhelming to consider the fact that after they’re gone, their child will still need to be cared for. With some exceptions, life expectancies for many disabled people are not affected.
These factors mean there are always new challenges and planning difficulties. Estate planning, for instance, takes on deeper importance. It’s important to work with a qualified estate planning attorney to determine a working plan of what your child will need in their lifetime. This includes legal, medical, financial and other needs unique to your child. Some children may not be able to live independently as they grow into adulthood; others may just need a little help or supervision. The key is to plan early, acknowledge the need for periodic reviews and make changes as necessary.
No one knows your child better. A letter of intent is a great way to provide insight to your child’s daily needs. Are there family or other resources that may not be obvious to someone coming into contact with the child without background information? Medications, nourishment, limitations and more can be provided in a letter that can make a difference in the short term if a parent cannot see to his daily needs.
As parents, we feel both happy and a bit bittersweet as our child’s 18th birthday approaches. For parents with disabled children, they have to take it further than a melancholy day spent reminiscing about their childhoods. The law in most states assumes they are capable of making their own decisions unless there is an appointed legal guardian. This is especially important since this person would have access to medical and financial documents, decide where the child lives and where they go to school. Many adults who have a disability retain the capacity to appoint an agent, but it’s not always that simple.
Special needs trusts are a great way to ensure the financial considerations are in place. These legal trusts ensure your disabled child has resources available to him if you’re no longer around. Be sure to discuss this with your attorney, especially if your child receives any types of government disability payments, including Medicaid. You might also wish to purchase a life insurance policy for both parents; these too can cover the child’s needs in the future.
While we can’t “fix” everything, what we can do is cover the bases as much as possible for the future. For parents with special needs children, it’s a responsibility they’ll have likely for the rest of their lives; for them, the real challenge is what happens after they’re no longer here. To learn more, contact The Zimmer Law Firm today.