Special Needs Planning

Americans are living longer than they did in the past, including those with disabilities. According to one count, 480,000 adults with intellectual disabilities are living with parents who are 60 or older. This figure does not include adult children with other forms of disability nor those who live separately, but still depend on their parents for vital support.

When these parents can no longer care for their children due to their own disability or death, the responsibility will fall on siblings, other family members, and the community. In many cases, expenses will increase dramatically when care and guidance provided by parents must instead be provided by a professional for a fee.

Planning by parents can make all the difference in the life of the child with a disability, as well as that of his or her siblings who may be left with the responsibility for caretaking. Any plan should include the following elements: 1) a plan of care, 2) a supplemental needs trust, and 3) life insurance.

A Plan of Care

Where is your disabled child going to live when he or she can no longer live with you? Will he or she move in with a sibling? Or into a group home? Who will make the decision? Who will monitor the care he or she receives? It’s never too soon to begin answering these questions and making sure that the living and support arrangements are in place.

It will help everyone involved if the parents create a written statement of their wishes for their child’s care. This statement is sometimes referred to as a “letter of intent.” The parents know their child better than anyone else. They can explain what helps, what hurts, what scares their child and what reassures him or her. When the parents are gone, their knowledge will go with them unless they pass it on.

In almost all cases where a parent will leave funds at death to a disabled child, this should be done in the form of a trust. Trusts set up for the care of a disabled child generally are called “special” or “supplemental” needs trusts.

Life Insurance

A parent with a disabled child should consider buying life insurance to fund the trust set up for the child’s support. What may look like a substantial sum to leave in trust today may run out after several years of paying for care that the parent had previously provided. The more resources available, the better the support that can be provided the child. If both parents are alive, the cost of “second-to-die” insurance—payable only when the second of the two parents passes away—can be surprisingly low.

How We Can Help

Henry Levandowski and Maria Darpino can analyze your estate plan to make sure all legal documents and decisions are in place to ensure the continued proper care of your disabled child. We can also establish a supplemental needs trust for your disabled child so that eligibility for valuable government benefits can continue. Call us at (610) 446-9626 or contact us here to schedule your consultation.