Navigating the Do’s and Don’ts of Creating a Special Needs Plan for a Young Child or Adult with Disabilities

Planning for the future when you have a child with special needs can be complicated and daunting. The laws are often difficult to understand, and it is equally hard to anticipate the extent of your child’s future care needs. Whether you have an elementary school child whose days are filled with speech therapy appointments, occupational therapy, specialized schooling and IEP’s, or an adult child with disabilities who is reliant on you for daily support and care, you must begin planning ahead by creating a special needs plan to ensure that your child will have a safe and secure future—even when you are gone.

In general, there are a handful of “Do’s and Don’ts” that parents (and grandparents) can use to navigate their options for creating a Special Needs Plan that is a good fit for their family.  It’s also a wise idea to create this plan with the help of a qualified Special Needs Planning Attorney who will ensure that you do not overlook any of the following:

The Do’s Associated with Planning for Special Needs Families

  1. Plan ahead for your kids and grandkids. Today is certain, but nobody knows tomorrow.
  2. Write out your will and establish a Third Party Special Needs Trust to safeguard your assets/properties for your
  3. Select a backup guardian and a backup trustee for your child with special needs.
  4. Petition the court for a legal Guardianship for the right to remain in control of your child’s affairs when he or she becomes a legal adult.
  5. Familiarize yourself with the various legal requirements that allow your child to be eligible for public assistance such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  6. Craft a letter of intent outlining your child’s special needs, which may entail education, medical, religious, welfare, and other future-related needs.
  7. Discuss with your attorney how to fund your Third Party Special Needs Trust to ensure all future care needs will be met.
  8. Above all, discuss with an experienced Special Needs Planning Attorney the right steps to take, and when, in order to carry out your plan.

The Don’ts Associated with Planning for Special Needs Families

  1. Leave property or assets for your special need child directly in your will. This is because doing so can automatically disqualify your child from government assistance.
  2. Plan to give the share of your estate that you want to go to your special needs child or grandchild to another family member to ‘hold’ for them.  This may lead to the loss of the property/asset or misuse.
  3. Place accounts, assets, and property in joint ownership with your child who has special needs. In the future, it will be regarded as your child’s property.
  4. Make the mistake of leaving your property or asset in the name of a custodian for your child in a Uniform Transform to Minor Acts. It is important to point out that such funds belong to the beneficiary automatically at age 21.
  5. Make your child with special needs and not a Third Party Special Needs Trust the beneficiary of any life insurance or retirement account.
  6. Transfer money to a trust that is not created with your child’s special needs in mind.

If you would like to discuss with an experienced Virginia Special Needs Planning Lawyer about how to create a plan that meets your child’s needs both now and in the future, please call the Law Offices of Sheri R. Abrams at (571) 328-5795  to schedule a meeting.

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