By Erika Apelis
Create a System
If you have a child with special needs, you need a system in place. This allows your designated individual to follow the system you have created.
- Create a document with important personal information. This includes full names, social security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, health insurance information and electronic user names and passwords. Keep copies of your key documents (social security cards, birth certificates, car titles, deeds, etc.) in this file as well.
- Create a document with emergency contacts. Include all contact information. Also include those trusted individuals essential to running your household, such as your trusted lawn care company, plumber, electrician, house cleaner, etc.
- Create a document with medical histories. Include the names and contact information for primary care physicians and specialists. Include a list of prescriptions and where filled and a list of allergies.
- If your child is in school, create a document listing your child’s educational plan and counselors that work with your child.
- Create a list detailing final plans, if any. Provide information for any prepaid funeral and burial plans.
- Create a list or spreadsheet of your financial Information. List the value of assets, how titled and beneficiary designations. Create a list of your bills and how you pay them on a monthly basis. Include information regarding representative payee and trust accounts. List your financial advisor, your CPA and any other trusted advisors.
- Keep all your legal documents together in one place. This includes your will, trust, health care power of attorney, living will, durable power of attorney and special needs trust.
- Create a list of electronic accounts, passwords and security questions. Tell your trusted individual where this information is stored and how to access it.
- Create a letter of intent or a values letter. This letter is a way to memorialize your knowledge as a parent of a special needs child. The information you can convey in this letter includes a summary of your child’s life, their daily schedule, their likes and dislikes, their medical care, their education, any public benefits information, their employment history, their environment both socially and working and any behavioral issues. This should also include your wishes for your child’s life including your thoughts and hopes for the future.
Draft a Plan
A plan is necessary to ensure your special needs child is cared for both physically and financially when you are unable to do so yourself. Meet with an attorney to draft a plan that incorporates your plan for your child. They will help guide you through the planning process to ensure all circumstances are considered. The legal and financial planning will ensure your child with disabilities can continue to enjoy a quality life after you are no longer able to provide that life for them.
Your plan should include these key documents:
- Durable Power of Attorney to manage finances should you become incapacitated and are unable to do so. Your named agent should be a trusted individual because this is a powerful document. When your disabled child turns 18, they should also execute their own durable power of attorney (so long as they have capacity to do so).
- Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will to name an agent to make healthcare decisions when you can no longer make decisions yourself and expresses your wishes for your care. Again, your named agent should be a trusted individual. When your disabled child turns 18, they should also execute their own healthcare power of attorney and living will (so long as they have capacity to do so).
- Last Will and Testament and/or a Trust that names a fiduciary to distribute and manage your assets after your death.
- Special Needs Trust to distribute assets to your disabled child without impacting their public benefits. This ensures a good quality of life for your child without affecting their much-needed public benefits.
- Your estate planning documents should also address a guardianship for your disabled child. Your documents should name preferences for guardians of your child to ensure the court appoints the individuals you think are appropriate and trusted.
- Any final arrangements for both you and your disabled child. Planning makes these difficult times less stressful.
Review and Update your Plan
Estate planning is a continuous process and you will need to review your plan every five years, when you have a major life change or when there is a change in the law. This process is not meant to be stressful, but to bring peace of mind that your affairs are in order for your loved ones.
If you have questions or would like to discuss further, please reach out to Erika Apelis at email@example.com or 216.716.5637, or contact any of our Wealth & Estate Planning attorneys.
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