Adult children with disabilities can be supported with proper estate planning.
You are a parent of a child with a disability.
No words can describe your love for your child or the bond you share.
Supporting your child throughout his or her life has been a priority.
As you age, you are concerned.
How will your child be supported and cared for when you die?
According to a recent The San Diego Union-Tribune article titled “How to build support system for adult children with disabilities,” this is an important question to answer.
With one in four Americans being diagnosed with a disability and the life expectancy of those with special needs is increasing, it is likely your child will outlive you.
This makes planning essential.
How do you do this?
Preserve eligibility for government assistance.
Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid are important benefits for your adult child with disabilities.
Leaving an inheritance outright can cause your child to lose eligibility for this support.
A Special Needs Trust can be set up to leave assets to support your child.
Any money placed in the trust is not counted towards means-tested eligibility for government programs..
There is a timeline when it comes to creating a Third Party Special Needs trust.
The trust needs to be set up before the child with a disability turns 18.
Does it need to be funded at this time?
Funding can wait.
It simply needs to be created.
Be a stickler for the rules.
There are restrictions when it comes to how trust money is used if the child receives Supplemental Security Income.
Trust money cannot be used to pay for housing or food.
Funds should be used for therapies not covered by Medicaid.
Money can also be used to pay for extra expenses like vacations or cellphones.
An experienced elder law attorney will be able to explain the intricacies of these rules for you.
Name a trustee and a successor trustee.
The trustee manages the trust on behalf of your child with a disability.
The person should be responsible and care about the welfare of your child.
A sibling or a family member could be a good option.
The trustee or successor trustee should be younger than you so they can manage the trust after you die.
Open an ABLE Account.
What is an ABLE account?
ABLE stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience.
If you have heard of a 529 account, they function similarly.
The account does not need to be opened by a certain time.
The child must have the qualifying disability before age 26.
You can transfer money from a Special Needs Trust into an ABLE account to be used for qualified disabilities expenses.
Prepare a letter of intent or guidance.
This is not a legal document.
In it you provide instructions for the care of your adult child with a disability.
You can include established routines, preferences, comfort levels, and wishes.
Naming and providing contact information for medical providers and caregivers should not be overlooked.
Obviously, these preferences and people can change.
Be sure to update this letter every two years.
Get a Power of Attorney.
Set up a power of attorney for your child with special needs, if he or she has the requisite legal capacity.
This provides greater flexibility than a guardianship or a conservatorship.
Consider housing options.
This depends on the disability of the child and the financial resources of the family.
If possible, the child can continue living in the family home after you have passed away.
Money would need to be left for maintenance, insurance, taxes, and the like.
If this is not an option, you should look into group home settings.
These counselors and staffers help residents live their own lives.
With so many considerations, it is important to secure the services of an experienced elder law attorney to help you protect adult children with disabilities sooner rather than later.
Reference: The San Diego Union Tribune (Jan. 9, 2020) “How to build support system for adult children with disabilities”