Checklist: Estate planning for your special needs child

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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