Legal Considerations For Planning For Special Needs Children As Aging Parents

As parents, our primary instinct is to protect and provide for our children, regardless of their age or circumstances. For parents of children with special needs, this commitment extends far into the future, often raising unique challenges and considerations, particularly as they themselves age. Planning for the long-term care and financial security of a special needs child requires careful attention to legal and financial matters to ensure their well-being and quality of life.

Our friends from Carpenter & Lewis PLLC offer insight into key legal considerations for your child with special needs. With the right protections, you can face the future with confidence, knowing that your child is shielded with proper legal protections.

Establishing A Special Needs Trust

One of the most important steps parents can take to secure their child’s financial future is to establish a special needs trust (SNT). A special needs trust is a legal tool specifically designed to manage assets for the benefit of an individual with a disability without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). By placing assets in a properly drafted SNT, parents can provide for their child’s supplemental needs, including medical care, therapy, education, and recreation, while preserving their eligibility for vital government assistance programs.

Appointing A Guardian Or Conservator

As aging parents, it’s essential to plan for who will assume responsibility for making decisions on behalf of their special needs child in the event of their incapacity or death. This may involve appointing a guardian to make personal and healthcare decisions and a conservator to manage financial matters.

Careful consideration should be given to the selection of guardians and conservators, ensuring that they are trustworthy, capable, and familiar with the unique needs of the child. Parents can nominate guardians and conservators through legal documents such as a will or durable power of attorney, providing clarity and guidance for their child’s future care.

Accessing Government Benefits

Your child may be eligible for more benefits and government programs than just Medicaid-sponsored health care. Understanding eligibility requirements, application procedures, and ongoing compliance is essential to ensure that their child receives the support and services they need. An experienced elder law lawyer can provide guidance on accessing benefits such as Medicaid, SSI, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Medicare, maximizing available resources to meet the child’s needs while preserving their financial stability.

Creating A Letter Of Intent

In addition to formal legal documents, parents may wish to create a letter of intent to supplement their estate plan. A letter of intent is a non-binding document that outlines the child’s history, preferences, routines, medical needs, and other important information for future caregivers and trustees. While not a legally enforceable document, a letter of intent can provide valuable insight and guidance to those who will be responsible for the child’s care, ensuring continuity and consistency in meeting their needs.

Planning for the future of a special needs child as aging parents involves careful attention to legal considerations to protect their well-being and financial security. By establishing a special needs trust, appointing guardians and conservators, accessing government benefits, creating a letter of intent, and regularly reviewing their estate plan, parents can provide peace of mind knowing that their child will be cared for and supported.