One in four adults in New York has some type of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While many of these individuals can live life independently, some of them require assistance.
If you have a family member who has special needs and requires complete assistance, you may wish to embark on special needs planning. This helps to put into place arrangements for care after your death.
Will and trusts
A will is a great start, but you also want to consider establishing a special needs trust. This trust can hold and manage assets for the benefit of the individual with special needs without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits.
Guardianship and caregivers
Identify a guardian or caregiver who will take care of your loved one if you are no longer able to do so. Ensure that you clearly document this arrangement to avoid potential disputes.
Plan for the financial needs of your loved one by estimating the costs of medical care, therapy, education and daily living expenses. You can do this in several ways, such as ensuring beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, pensions and life insurance policies align with your special needs estate plan. Naming your special needs trust as the beneficiary is often a wise choice.
Letter of intent
Create a detailed letter of intent that outlines your loved one’s needs, preferences, routines and care instructions. This document can provide invaluable guidance to future caregivers and trustees.
Consider how your loved one will transition into adulthood and independent living if applicable. Address issues related to housing, employment and vocational training in your estate plan.
Advocacy and support networks
Identify trusted individuals, family members or organizations that can advocate for and support your loved one’s needs. Ensure they are aware of their roles and responsibilities in your estate plan.
Planning for the future is a responsibility that extends beyond your own life, especially when it comes to ensuring the financial security and well-being of loved ones with special needs. The best way to protect your loved one is to create a well-thought-out special needs estate plan.