Legally Protect & Financially Provide for Your Child With Special Needs

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Estate planning is the process by which parents can legally protect their children by naming guardians to care for them both in the immediate aftermath of an accident or tragedy and permanently.  By creating a comprehensive estate plan you can document and provide guidance for the guardians and caregivers of your children.  You can help ensure that the financial resources you intend to leave for your child will be used as you would. 
If you have a child with autism and/or any other special needs due to physical and/or mental health conditions, it’s even more critically important that you make sure you’ve done all you can to ensure your child will be cared for by the people of your choosing, in the manner that’s best for your child, and that he or she have the benefit of all that could be available. 
It’s important, for example, to be careful about the way you leave financial resources for your child with special needs so that you don’t inadvertently jeopardize any public assistance or government benefits to which your child might otherwise be entitled to help cover the costs of his or her ongoing healthcare, education, living expenses, and general support.  The way to do this is to establish a Supplemental Needs Trust (also referred to as a Special Needs Trust ) for your child to receive the money you give or leave him or her so that money works specifically to supplement existing and potential future government benefits for your child. 
With a Supplemental Needs Trust you can also help insulate your child’s resources from potential claims by creditors for debts and from lawsuits.  If your child has special needs that are not as readily visible on the surface, as with mental health disorders like dyslexia, sequencing disorder, sensory processing disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, you can also create a special kind of trust to help continue the care for and responsibly provide financially for your child.
You can also choose whom you want to be in charge of managing your child’s money, whom you want to love, nurture, and care for your child on a daily basis, and whom you want to advocate for and manage the appropriate care for your child.  You can provide welcome background information and guidance to each of them to help ensure continuity of quality care for your child with special needs as well as minimize the stress on your other child or children and extended members of your family.
Choosing guardians for your children can be an incredibly difficult and even painful process.  When one of your children has special needs, it’s even harder.  No one is a greater advocate for your child than you and no one understands him or her better than you do.  As parents we “go to bat” for our children relentlessly and would do absolutely anything for them we possibly could.  The trick is to help educate others as best as we can to understand and learn how they can step up to the plate for us if we’re ever unable to continue advocating for our children ourselves.  A good estate planning attorney should have a process to compassionately (not clinically) help you through that decision-making process.
Sign up here for an email with a link to download 20 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Lawyer to Prepare Your Family’s Estate Plan to help you find the right lawyer for you and your family.
And if you’re in Massachusetts and would like to talk privately about your family’s needs and learn what you can do to best protect and provide for your children in case anything ever happens to you, just email or call my office to get started today.
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About Danielle G. Van Ess

Danielle G. Van Ess is a Massachusetts (born and raised), experienced estate planning and small business attorney who helps her clients protect and preserve what matters most to them. To learn more, please visit: dgvelaw.com or call: 781-740-0848