When you are caring for a loved one with special needs—whether it is a child with autism spectrum disorder or Down syndrome or a spouse or parent with dementia—you need a team of people to help and support you. School staff members, day program personnel, visiting nurses, doctors, social workers, and friends and family members all help you provide the care your loved one needs. However, if you want to protect your loved one now and in the future, it is essential that you include a Special Needs Planning lawyer on that team as well.
When you work with the Estate Planning Attorneys at Ross & Shoalmire, you can be sure that you will get all the information you need to create a plan that will protect your loved one and provide for them in your absence. Learn more about what Special Needs Planning Attorneys do here.
Your Attorney Will Educate You About Your Options
It is not easy to confront the probability that your dependent with special needs will outlive you, especially if he or she is your child. In fact, it is so difficult to think about that many people simply don’t think about it. Obviously, burying your head in the sand is no way to protect your loved one.
At Ross & Shoalmire, we will take the time to explain what could happen if you don’t execute certain documents when you have the chance. As always, we do so with the compassion and understanding that come with years of helping families just like yours. Without a Special Needs Estate Plan, your loved one could face the following consequences:
- Placement in a facility. If you are your loved one’s only caregiver and you have not left instructions for their care after you are gone, they could be placed in a group home or other state facility against your wishes.
- Loss of governmental benefits. If your loved one directly inherits assets from you in your Will, they could become disqualified from receiving need-based benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid.
- State-appointed guardian. The courts will appoint a guardian for your loved one if you have not named someone in your Will. This could be a family member if someone steps forward or a stranger if the court cannot find someone close to your loved one to appoint.
- Lack of enrichment. If you don’t leave any money to your loved one for fear of jeopardizing their government benefits, then they will miss out on the opportunity to have access to enrichment activities, travel, education, transportation, and their own cellphone, among other things.
We do not believe in using scare tactics to encourage people to execute an Estate Plan, but we do think it’s important to understand what could happen without one.
How Our Team Will Help You
You can prevent the worst from happening and protect your loved one with special needs from experiencing uncertainty and confusion by working with our team to create a custom Estate Plan. After getting to know you and your goals for your loved one, we will walk you through the following important documents:
- A Will. This basic document is at the heart of every Estate Plan. In it, you can express your wishes for your loved one’s care, including naming a guardian who has agreed to take care of them or to oversee their care in a facility you have chosen and approved. With the help of a knowledgeable lawyer, you can also leave certain assets to your loved one, knowing that they will not jeopardize government benefits.
- Powers of Attorney. These documents appoint trusted representatives to take care of your finances and make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
- Special Needs Trust. This is a tool that can hold assets for the purpose of providing enrichment, paying utilities, funding education and travel, and covering other non-essential expenses for your loved one with special needs. Your lawyer can explain the benefits and help you decide if it’s right for you.
Every family is different, and their Estate Plan will differ based on their assets and goals. Meeting with an experienced Estate Planning lawyer is the first step to gaining the peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved one with special needs will be provided for and cared for after you are gone.