by Virginia Special Needs Planning Lawyer Sheri Abrams
Creating a special needs plan is an important step that parents of children with disabilities can take to make sure that their child is prepared for life without mom or dad, and that assets are safely and securely set aside for future care needs.
In most cases, the creation of a special needs plan includes naming a legal guardian for the child if he or she is a minor, petitioning the courts for a legal Guardianship if the child is over age 18, and establishing a Special Needs Trust. Let’s briefly highlight what each of these means:
- Naming a legal guardian for minor children: Parents who have minor children with special needs can use their estate plan to name a guardian whom they trust to raise their child if they became incapacitated or passed away.
- Legal Guardianship for Adults with Special Needs: Adults with disabilities who are over 18 will likely need a court-ordered Guardianship so that someone else can help manage their affairs. In most cases, the legal guardian named by the court is the parent. However, successor guardians should also be chosen who can take over this role if something happens to mom or dad.
- Special Needs Trust: This is a legal tool that is designed to hold assets for a child or adult with special needs in a safe and secure way that does not jeopardize access to public benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI)or Medicaid.
Once a plan along these lines is created, it’s important for the parent or caregiver of the child with special needs to share the details of the plan with anyone else who may be called on to assist the child. Important people to notify about the existence of your plan and what to do if called upon include:
- The people you’ve chosen to serve in helper roles. Your Successor Trustee, Successor Guardians and other interested parties should understand what roles you’ve appointed them to in your legal documents, what is expected of them, and the steps they should take to help your child if something happens to you.
- Your Child’s school. It’s a wise idea to notify your child’s teacher and guidance counselors about your plans for your child and how to get in touch with your chosen guardians if an emergency happened during school hours and you could not be reached.
- Caretakers: If you utilize the services of a caretaker, or a babysitter if your child is still young, it’s a wise idea to leave them the phone number of your chosen guardians who they could contact in an emergency.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to share your entire plan with these parties, but it is a smart idea to let them know how to find your documents and who to contact, if something happens. You may also want to provide these parties with the name and number of your Virginia Special Needs Planning lawyer as your attorney can also help guide your loved ones through the decisions they need to make if you were suddenly incapacitated or passed away.
Of course, the most important first step is to create a special needs plan. If you have not done that and you are ready to get started, we invite you to contact our Fairfax Special Needs planning and Social Security Disability law firm at (571) 328-5795 to schedule an appointment.