Are you the parent, grandparent, or caregiver for a child with special needs? If so, estate planning for you should take on a heightened importance for several reasons. Not only do you undoubtedly wish to protect and provide for your child with special needs now, but you may also need to create an estate plan that continue to provide support after your child reaches adulthood. If you are not careful, however, your well-intentioned gifts could jeopardize your child’s eligibility for much needed governmental assistance. The best way to ensure that these concerns are addressed in your plan is to work closely with an experienced Special Needs Planning lawyer.
Caring for a Child with Special Needs
The term “special needs” is usually defined rather broadly and includes an extensive array of diagnoses, conditions, and illnesses. When the term “child with special needs” is used it could relate to a child with a mild learning disability or one with profound cognitive impairment. It could include anything from a child with high functioning autism to one who is severely autistic as well as refer to a child with anything from environmentally triggered depression to one with long-term, serious psychiatric problems. As the parent of a child with special needs, no one is in a better position than you are to know where your child falls on the “special needs” spectrum. One thing that almost all parents of children with special needs have in common is the cost of caring for their child. With few exceptions, the cost of raising a child with special needs is higher than the cost of raising a child without special needs. Depending on what type of special needs your child has, you may encounter expenses for things such as:
- Ongoing medical treatment
- Therapists (occupational, physical, speech etc.)
- Specialized equipment
- Prescription medication
If your child falls on the moderate to severe end of the special needs spectrum, there is a very good chance that these additional costs will continue when your child becomes a legal adult. As a parent, you undoubtedly want to continue to provide financial support for your child when your child becomes an adult and even long after you are gone. Traditional methods of providing support, however, will create unique problems when the recipient of an intended gift is also dependent on the assistance provided by state and federal assistance programs. This is why you need to work with a Grand Forks special needs planning lawyer.
The Problem with Gifting
Traditionally, most parents leave gifts to their children and/or grandchildren in their Last Will and Testament. Leaving a direct gift to a child with special needs, however, creates more of a problem than it fixes. The law considers your child to be a legal adult at the age of 18 without regard to your child’s mental or physical capacity or condition. As an adult, your child must qualify on his/her own for much needed assistance programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI). These programs employ income and asset limits that cannot be exceeded by applicants/recipients. The well-intentioned gift you (or another relative) leave your child could put your child’s assets over the program limit, resulting in disqualification or ineligibility for benefits.
How Can a Grand Forks Special Needs Planning Lawyer Help?
Fortunately, there are ways to provide for your child with special needs without jeopardizing his/her eligibility for assistance. Creating a special needs trust, for instance, is a common solution. The key to avoiding a conflict while ensuring that your child is protected and will be provided for in the event anything happens to you is to work closely with a special needs planning lawyer.
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. To get started on your estate plan, contact the experienced North Dakota and Minnesota special needs planning lawyer at German Law Group by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.