Estate planning for an individual with special needs is a complicated process. It is important the attorney take the time to really understand who this individual is (including their abilities, limitations and preferences) and his/her financial resources. It is also crucial the attorney be knowledgeable about all the government and community benefits available along with their specific requirements. Once both parts of the equation are established, the attorney can utilize all the specialized estate planning tools in this area to create a plan that will be in the best interests of the individual as well as the family.
Some families think, if they leave all their assets to their special needs family member outright or in a general trust, this individual will be able to provide for himself or herself. Other families believe if they disinherit their special needs member, he or she will be adequately provided for by the government. If an individual receives a large settlement award because of a personal injury suit, they may believe that they will now be set to provide for themselves. These beliefs are not necessarily 100% accurate.
The area of special needs estate practice is rapidly becoming a specialty all its own due to the intricacies involved. An attorney who is not trained in this area likely will not know how to find all the services available that will specifically benefit this individual. They may not know the different types of special needs trusts and when and how they should be used.
The biggest mistake special needs individuals and their families make is to put off estate planning or to use standard strategies that can actually put this individual at risk. Some of the benefits available to people with special needs, have income and asset limits. Different trusts have age limitations to when you may use them.
You would not let your primary care physician do surgery on you. Do not have your general practice attorney do your special needs planning. Contact us today and set up a free consultation to discuss how we can help you create the customized estate plan that is in your best interests.