For people who care for someone with special needs—whether it is a child with autism or a spouse with dementia—the well-being of their dependent is never far from their minds. From taking care of their personal needs to finding appropriate schools or long-term care facilities, it requires constant time and attention. It can be hard for these caregivers to find even a moment to consider what would happen to their loved ones if they were no longer about to take care of them. As difficult as it might be to confront the possibility of leaving your special needs dependent alone, it is an essential task and one that should not be put off any longer.
What You Should Do TODAY to Protect Your Special Needs Dependent
If you are the parent of a child who was born with special needs, you might have had years to adjust to your role and to prepare for the future. However, if your parent or spouse was recently diagnosed with dementia or your loved one suffered an accident or illness that has left them with a disability, you have a lot to come to terms with. Considering what will happen to them after you are gone might be more than you can handle right now. We suggest taking the following steps one at a time:
- Organize everything. A fairly easy first step is to buy a document file to get all of the information related to your dependent in one place. This includes your loved one's personal information, medical records, financial statements, school records, legal documents, and emergency contacts. Any piece of paper related to your loved one should be in this file, and you should let family members know where it is kept. If something unexpected happened to you, a family member should be able to get all the information they need in one place.
- Share your knowledge. No one knows your child, parent, or spouse like you do. In addition to the medical records that spell out their diagnosis and limitations, you should create a document that tells your loved one's story. This could be in the form of a letter to their future caregiver. Share as much as you can about what your loved one can and can't do, what they like and dislike, what you do to make their—and your own—life easier, and any other information you have about them.
- Make a plan. Next, write out what you would like to happen to your dependent in the event of your incapacitation or death. This is your chance to brainstorm all possible options and to express your best-case scenario for their care in your absence. Figuring out what you hope is possible will help you make it a reality.
- Talk to a lawyer. No amount of hoping and wishing will make a plan happen. For that, you need to sit down with an estate planning attorney to create the legal documents that can make your plan a reality. Your attorney will walk you through naming a guardian, creating Powers of Attorney, writing your Will, and establishing a Trust. Your attorney can include the letter you wrote about your loved one in the estate planning documents so that it will be shared with those close to the case.
Just as your loved one with special needs is unique, so is your plan for them after you are gone. Our compassionate team will help you with all of your options to give you the peace of mind you deserve.
Why You Should Consider a Special Needs Trust
A Special Needs Trust (SNT) is a valuable tool for protecting your loved one while you are alive and after you are gone. This kind of trust allows you to set money aside for your disabled loved one's care without jeopardizing their government benefits. When you meet with our estate planning legal team, we will explain how the SNT works and help you make sure it is properly funded.
If you have a dependent with special needs, it is important that you take steps now to protect them in case the unthinkable happens. It's not easy to do, but once it's done, you will be free to focus on the here and now. There is no time like the present—reach out to us today.