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Making a Will Can Protect Your Child Living With Special Needs

Making a Will Can Protect Your Child Living With Special Needs


For the one in five families who care for children with special needs, estate planning is crucial.

Parents of a child with a disability face numerous challenges and concerns. In 2022, one study found that among these parents’ biggest worries was what would happen to their children if they got sick or if they could no longer provide the care and support their child required. Another survey showed that 69 percent of families were worried about their ability to provide lifetime assistance to their children living with disabilities.

Making a will and other important estate planning documents are among the steps you can take to help alleviate these concerns. A well-drafted estate plan can help ensure that your loved one with special needs will continue to have the financial protection and support that they require as life moves on.

Barriers to Estate Planning

Creating a will is an integral part of planning for the future, yet two out of three Americans have no will or estate planning document, according to Caring’s most recent survey.

Making a will is not always an easy or straightforward task. Some respondents reported that they do not have enough assets to leave behind, some cited procrastination as the reason for avoiding estate planning, and others expressed confusion about how to even get started making a will.

Don’t Delay Making a Will

Planning ahead is key. In fact, 41 percent of survey participants indicated that they would delay making a will until they experienced a health diagnosis or concern. It can be hard to grapple with the idea of no longer being around to support a child, but you may be putting your loved one with special needs at greater risk if you delay making a will.

Avoid waiting until your health, or the health of your loved one with special needs, worsens. Preparing for the future and having a will and estate plan in place ahead of time can make navigating health challenges easier and provide everyone with confidence and peace of mind, which can be invaluable. 

Power of Attorney

As part of your estate plan, you also may execute a power of attorney. This legal document allows you to designate someone to make decisions for you if you cannot do so.

For example, you may become unable to handle your own affairs due to unexpected circumstances, such as serious illness or injury. In this case, the individual you named in the power of attorney may have to step in. They might take over managing financial support for your loved one living with a disability, making financial transactions on your behalf while you are no longer able to. You would therefore want to appoint someone you trust to serve in this role.

For a loved one living with a disability, having a power of attorney in place can help preserve their autonomy and independence. Imagine that you face an adverse health event and there is no power of attorney in place. The court may need to appoint a guardian to make decisions for your loved one. This can often lead to uncomfortable situations where an unfamiliar person is making critical decisions for your child, leading to tension and stress.

Individuals with medical needs can also name a medical power of attorney. This appointee is someone who can represent their best interests when it comes to medical care.

Selecting Someone to Care for Your Child

In addition to creating a will, you also may wish to create a person-centered care plan for your child. This helps your family determine who will provide care and guidance for your child in many aspects of their life and ensure that your child’s own goals, values, and preferences are all taken into account when determining your care. 

Special Needs Trust

While a will is a basic estate planning document that can help you provide for your loved one with special needs when you no longer can, a trust can help protect their assets. Making a special needs trust includes appointing a responsible individual to act as the trustee.

The trust can pay for things public benefits do not cover, such as recreation and education. At the same time, a trust preserves your loved one’s ability to qualify for public benefits. Setting up a special needs trust can also ensure that they receive continued support during their lifetime.

Work with a Special Needs Planning Attorney

In addition to helping you create a will, a qualified attorney can assist you with making a comprehensive estate plan too. This could include executing power of attorney documents and setting up a special needs trust for your loved one. Contact a special needs planning attorney in your area today.

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