Having an individual in your family with special needs carries some heavy responsibilities. You are faced with additional challenges and considerations. One of those highly important considerations is estate planning. Whether it is your child or someone you care deeply about and want to provide for, it is imperative that you consult with an estate planning attorney that specializes or focuses their practice in planning for the needs of individuals with special needs.
For some of you, you may be asking yourself “what is special needs?”. If you are, the answer to that is: Individuals with special needs involves those people that have some sort of disability- whether a physical or cognitive impairment – or both. These impairments often require additional assistance in order to live as independently as possible, given their situation.
That being said, many parents and even friends wish to provide for them by a gift from their estate. And I certainly applaud you, if you are one of those people. Our community with special needs absolutely need a community of support. But, we want to be sure that any support you as a parent or friend want to provide will not ultimately hurt the individual with special needs. How can this happen? You say. Well, if the individual with special needs receives any type of government assistance, whether it be housing, food assistance, medical assistance, or the like, there is a great chance that your gift to them out of your estate could disqualify them from receiving this much-needed assistance. A large majority of the assistance that individuals with disabilities receive is what we call ‘means-tested’, which means their receipt of these government benefits is contingent upon the value of their total assets. So, even though you left a small chunk of money to them, if not planned for properly, you may have just disrupted their life in a far more harmful manner, because now they could lose their housing, their medical assistance, or their food assistance.
Proper planning for gifting to individuals with special needs is done in such a way that allows the individual to continue receiving their housing, medical or food assistance, while your gift is used to ‘supplement’ their care- that is to provide benefits for them that they are not already receiving. An outright gift to someone with special needs could cost them their livelihood. The last thing you want, is to cause such chaos when the individual is already suffering through the loss of YOU! PLAN Ahead.
Our Special Needs Community absolutely needs your support. Please do not let this fear – the fear of disrupting their current livelihood- cause you to plan around them. Instead, simply seek the advice of knowledgeable counsel to assist you in proper planning.
For more information regarding proper planning for special needs, please email Bobbi Hines bshines@KreisEnderle.com.