Support for Special Needs Family Members

Thorough special needs Estate Planning is essential in providing financial support and resources for the lifetime of special needs family members

A ‘Special needs dependant’ is usually associated with a disabled child but in reality this field is much broader. Special needs’ dependants can also include members of the senior community living under their family’s care. Although the special needs of the elderly may differ from that of a disabled child, their ongoing care must still be considered in case you were to pass away before them. Thorough provisions should be made for any special needs dependent under your care, in order to secure the continuation of their financial and personal security.

The disabilities that exist in the category of special needs children are varied, ranging from Autism and Down Syndrome to mental illnesses and developmental delays.

Although this category is widespread, special needs Estate Planning is still unfamiliar territory to many Australians. Most parents anticipate that their special needs children won’t ever become financially independent, yet they haven’t begun setting future financial provisions aside.

Caring for children with special needs is financially and emotionally demanding. There is often a great pressure on families just to pay the bills and get through each day. These challenges, combined with the fact that special needs Estate Planning is complex and diverse, puts off most parents from setting aside money for their special needs children – an unintentional but dangerous mistake. By assessing your situation and seeking help now, you can ensure that the future of your child will be safe and secure.

Although unpleasant, it’s important to consider all the aspects that will contribute towards your child’s special needs care if you were no longer around. Estate Planning Solutions recommends considering each of the following options when planning for special needs children:

Letter of Intent

As parents are often the best representation of their children’s personalities and preferences, a Letter of Intent is an ideal way to explain the unique aspects of your child, their diagnosis, their level of functioning, and any goals you have for their future.

Guardianship

Even when a child with special needs turns eighteen, the parents are no longer considered his or her legal guardians. That means in order to make any legal, personal or medical decisions for the adult special needs son or daughter, parents must apply for legal guardianship. When establishing guardianship it’s also extremely important to name appropriate successors who are willing to serve as legal guardians in case you can no longer care for your child.

Special Needs Trust

Setting up a special needs’ trust is an effective way to financially safeguard the future of your child. A special needs trust can be funded with savings, life insurance policies, investments or gifts. Anyone with high-value assets can be disqualified from government benefits, so it’s crucial that care is taken to not name a special needs child as a beneficiary in a will or life insurance policy. With a special needs trust, the wealth isn’t considered an asset of the special needs person, therefore assuring that person’s eligibility for government benefits.

Naming a Trustee

Naming a responsible trustee or co-trustees will help ensure that the trust is well protected and any funds that are paid out have been thoroughly considered. Alternatively, an attorney or bank can serve as a trustee, but for a fee that is usually a percentage of the trust’s assets.

Many Australian families face the ongoing challenges of caring and planning for someone with special needs. These families must have a comprehensive plan if they wish to continue the quality of their loved one’s care when they are no longer around. Special needs trusts are very complex, and laws on government benefits vary by area, so it’s vital to request the legal advice of a qualified specialist when planning any future provisions.

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