Navigating the Do’s and Don’ts of Creating a Special Needs Plan for a Young Child or Adult With Disabilities

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Planning for the future when you have a child with special needs can be complicated and daunting. The laws are often difficult to understand, and it is equally hard to anticipate the extent of your child’s future care needs. Whether you have an elementary school child whose days are filled with speech therapy appointments, occupational therapy, specialized schooling, and IEP’s or an adult child with disabilities who is completely reliant on you for daily support and care, you must begin planning ahead to ensure that your child will have a safe and secure future—even when you are gone someday.

In general, there is a handful of “Do’s and Don’ts” that parents (and grandparents) can use to navigate their options for creating a Special Needs Plan that is a good fit for their family.  It’s also a wise idea to create this plan with the help of a qualified Special Needs Attorney who will ensure that you do not overlook any of the following:

The Do’s Associated with Planning for Special Needs Families

  1. Plan ahead for your kids and grandkids. Today is certain, but nobody knows about tomorrow.
  2. Write out your will and establish a Special Needs Trust to safeguard your assets/properties for your
  3. Select a guardian or a designated trustee for your child with special needs.
  4. Petition the courts for a Guardianship for the right to remain in control of your child’s affairs when he or she becomes a legal adult.
  5. Familiarize yourself with the various legal requirements that allow your child to be eligible for public assistance, such as Medicaid or SSI.
  6. Craft a letter of intent outlining your child’s special needs which may entail education, medical, religious, welfare, and other future-related needs.
  7. Discuss with your probate attorney how to fund the Special Needs Trust to ensure all future care needs will be met.
  8. Above all, discuss with an experienced Special Needs Attorney the right steps to take in order to carry out your plan.

The Don’ts Associated with Planning for Special Needs Families

  1. Leave a property or asset for your special needs child directly in your will. This is because doing so can automatically disqualify the child from government assistance.
  2. Transfer the share of the special needs family member’s property or asset to another family relative to ‘hold.’ This may lead to the loss of the property or misuse.
  3. Place accounts, assets, or property in joint ownership with your child who has special needs. In the future, it will be regarded as the child’s property.
  4. Make the mistake of leaving your property or asset in the name of a custodian for your child in a Uniform Transform to Minor Acts. It is important to point out that such funds belong to the beneficiary automatically at age 21.
  5. Make your child with special needs the sole beneficiary of any life insurance or retirement account.
  6. Transfer money to a trust that is not created with your child’s special needs in mind.


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