If you are the parent of a child with special needs, you need to address your child’s needs in your estate plan to ensure that he or she is well protected both during your lifetime and after you are gone. The Waukegan special needs planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. understand the unique estate planning concerns that the parent’s of a child with special needs face. By including a special needs planning component in your comprehensive estate plan now you can address each of those concerns in a way that provides much needed legal and financial protection for your child.
Raising a Child with Special Needs
As the parent of a child with special needs you already know the uncensored, unconditional, and unabashed love and joy these unique children bring to anyone’s life. You also know that the cost of raising a child with special needs far exceeds the already high cost of raising a child without special needs. Doctor and hospital bills, special equipment, therapy, and other expenses add up quickly. While many children with special needs go on to live relatively independent lives as adults, a significant percentage will continue to need financial assistance when they reach adulthood. As a parent, you undoubtedly want to ensure that your child is well cared for, medically, emotionally, and financially even after you are no longer here to supervise that care. With that in mind, you may find yourself asking questions such as:
- Who would raise your child if something unexpected happened to you and/or your spouse?
- What happens when your child turns 18 and becomes an adult in the eyes of the law?
- Can you continue to make medical and financial decisions for your child once he/she is an adult?
- How can you ensure enough money is left behind should your child require a lifetime of care?
- How can you ensure your child is not taken advantage of once you are no longer here?
- How do you leave funds for the benefit of the child without causing the child to lose important public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid?
How Special Needs Planning Can Help
The good news is that there are steps you can take to eradicate much of the uncertainty and solidify your child’s financial stability even after you are gone. By incorporating special needs planning strategies and tools into your overall estate plan, many of those difficult questions can be answered. One of the most common tools parents use as part of a special needs planning component is a Special Needs Trust. As you may already know, eligibility for most government assistance programs such as SSI and Medicaid is dependent on the participant’s income and assets. Consequently, you must be careful about gifting assets directly to your child, both while you are alive and upon your death. Creating a Special Needs Trust allows you (and other family members) to designate assets to be used for your child’s benefit without those assets counting against your child when determining eligibility for assistance. It also allows you to appoint a Trustee to manage and protect those assets after you are gone. You may also need to become your child’s legal guardian when he/she turns 18 in order to have the legal authority to make decisions for your child. As your child’s guardian you will be better able to protect your child from anyone who might try to take advantage of him/her and be able to step in when necessary to help your child make important decisions.
For a trust to be recognized by state and federal assistance programs as a Special Needs Trust it must include very specific language and be structured properly. For this reason alone you should work closely with an experienced special needs planning attorney when you decide to create your trust.
Contact Waukegan Special Needs Planning Attorneys
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns regarding special needs planning in Illinois, contact the experienced Waukegan special needs planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.