August 9, 2017
When you have a child that may require a lifetime of assistance and care, extra attention must be given to planning their future. Our Anchorage special needs planning lawyers work with parents every day to ensure their disabled children have necessary estate and transition plans in place for total peace of mind in this area. A solid plan allows the child’s emotional, financial, and medical needs to be met now, and also in the future, as he or she transitions into adulthood, or loses a parent/caregiver someday.
When planning for a child with special needs or disabilities, a “Do-It-Yourself” or basic estate plan is simply not enough. Our Anchorage special needs planning attorneys urge parents to consider four additional planning strategies and legal tools beyond a traditional will and trust:
Life Insurance – If possible, both parents should maintain life insurance policies. This is true even if one parent serves as the child’s primary caregiver and does not work outside the home. Doing so will help ensure that enough financial resources are available to maintain your child’s lifestyle and care if you pass away. However, make sure to talk with an experienced Anchorage special needs attorney before purchasing your policy. You’ll want to structure your policy in such a way that a payout to your child would not kick them off their Medicaid or other important benefits if something happens to you.
Guardian Nominations – Carefully choose who will serve as your child’s guardian in the event one or both parents pass away. Further, the guardian should have a clear understanding of your child’s needs so that they are prepared to serve if called upon. After that decision is made, you should legally document your choice with a will. Remember, if you don’t legally choose a guardian, the courts will make this decision for you. Don’t take that chance.
Special Needs Trust – A special needs trust is a specialized estate planning tool that allows parents to set aside assets for their child’s benefit while still maintaining their government benefits. You will also have the ability to appoint a Trustee whom you trust to manage the funds that your child needs to live on. This is a complex document that should be created by an attorney experienced in this area of the law.
Adult Conservatorship- When your child turns 18, you will likely need to pursue a full or limited conservatorship with the Anchorage courts. Without having a conservatorship in place, you may be unable to make personal, financial or medical decisions for your adult child, regardless of his or her disabilities. If your child is high functioning and found to have the capacity to understand and sign legal documents, you may be able to get around a full conservatorship using other tools such as Powers of Attorneys and Healthcare Directives.
When your child has disabilities and is fully dependent on you or others for a lifetime of care, it’s critical to take every legal and financial precaution now to ensure the child has a life of protection and security later. If you need assistance setting up your special needs plan, contact our Anchorage law firm at (907) 334-0902 for assistance.