There are many considerations when planning for your children. There are even more issues to consider when planning for your child with Special Needs. Regardless of the child’s age, the need for special care will continue.

  1. Advanced Directives. You need to have a trusted family member or a friend to make financial decisions and health care decisions on your behalf, if you are not able to do so. The documents needed are Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy. Having these documents will ensure that someone has access to your money and will be able to support your children even if you are incapacitated. .

  2. Will. You can only name a guardian of your children through a Will. If you are named as a guardian of your special needs child, you can either specify an alternate guardian through the guardianship paperwork or do it through your will. You can also set up a Supplemental Needs Trust through a Will.  

  3. Guardianship. Once the child turns 18, your authority to make decisions for him will end. Prior to this age, you may want to commence a 17A guardianship, which will permit you to continue making financial and health care decisions on the child’s behalf.

  4. Supplemental Needs Trusts. These trusts provide funds for the enhancement of life for special needs children and adults, without jeopardizing their receipt of government benefits.

    1. These trusts can either be set up during life or through a Will.

    2. There are two types of Supplemental Needs Trusts:

      1. Payback Trusts: set up using the individual’s own money, need to have a Payback provision to the State

      2. Third Party Trusts – set up with other people’s money, there is no need for a payback provision.

  5. Government Services. There are many government benefits available to special needs children and adults. You need to review the various options available and plan accordingly.  

    1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): provides a monthly stipend to a child once he or she is eligible. Funds are used to meet basic needs.

      1. Typically a child qualifies at 18 (when he is deemed to be cut off from parents’ income and assets

      2. SSI has a 3 year look back period for transfers of applicant’s own funds – so planning must start early

      3. Eligibility is based on resources (maximum of $2,000)

    2. Medicaid and Medicaid Waiver Programs: provide for home and community care, prevocational services, supported employment, respite care, vehicle modification.

      1. Some programs are resource based, others are not


    Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.