Estate planning for a child with severe learning disabilities requires special approaches. Use this list as a starting point.
Special needs: A letter of intent
- Carefully consider what kind of life you would like for your child.
- Create a letter of intent for future caregivers stating your desires.
- Include your child’s medical history and personal care needs.
- Share this document with family members and friends you trust.
- Regularly review this letter and update it as needed.
Special needs trust
- Learn about Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.
- See if inheritance will keep your child from being eligible.
- Look into setting up a special needs trust through an experienced attorney.
- Make sure anyone leaving your child money directs it to the trust.
- Decide whether to create the trust while you’re living or as a part of your will.
- Find out how different types of special needs trusts will affect your taxes.
- Select an informed trustee — an individual or financial institution, or both.
- Carefully discuss with a qualified attorney any trust you set up.
Special needs estate planning attorneys
- Look for an attorney with expertise in special needs estate planning.
- Get referrals from local disability organizations, advocacy agencies, and parents.
- Interview special needs attorneys before deciding which one to choose.
Guardianship and conservatorship
- If appropriate, apply for guardianship or conservatorship for a child over age 18.
- Start early. In some states, this can take up to a year to process.
- Consult with an attorney for alternatives to guardianship.
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About the author
About the author
Tara Anne Pleat, JD is a lawyer specializing in special needs estate planning and trust and estate administration.