Your time and energy are spent helping your child with special needs to get the most out of life. But, have you ever considered what would happen to your child if you were to suddenly become incapacitated or pass away?
Working with a Santa Barbara will and trust lawyer experienced in special needs law is an important step in helping to formulate a plan that would ensure that your child is properly cared for in your absence. A special needs attorney can assist you in getting your affairs in order and help you work through all of the options to set aside enough resources and choose caretakers who may be called upon to assist your child in the future. By taking care of these issues now, you can ensure that things are in place and ready to go should you suddenly become unable to care for your child. Here are the top three things you should take into consideration:
Choose a Guardian for Your Loved One
You likely have very strong feelings about who you would and would not like to be responsible for your child's care if you were not able to provide it yourself. However, if your choice for guardian – and just as importantly, your choice for who should not be a guardian – are not legally specified, then the decision goes to the courts and your opinion is disregarded as if it never existed.
Be Careful When Leaving Your Child an Inheritance
Most special needs attorneys will recommend that you don't leave assets directly to your child with special needs. This may seem cold, but it is actually doing your loved one a favor. If a person with special needs inherits assets – even an insignificant sum – they can be disqualified from various types of public assistance programs. Medi-Cal, for example, could view these inherited assets as a reason to go back and get payment for benefits that have been paid out previously.
Set Up a Special Needs Trust
Your situation may call for a specific trust to be set up and funded for your child with special needs. A Special Needs Trust (SNT) is often used to protect assets for your loved one while allowing them to continue receiving benefits like SSI or Medi-Cal. You will also need to decide how you will fund the trust and who will be named as trustee to manage the assets in the trust. A qualified Santa Barbara will and trust lawyer can help you work through all of your options.
If you would like to learn more about special needs planning, or if you would like to have your current Special Needs Trust reviewed to make sure it is still appropriate for your family's situation, please set up an appointment at our Santa Barbara estate planning office by calling (805) 946-1550.