Five Tips for Special Needs Estate Planning in New York

five tips for special needs estate planning in new york

The bond between special needs children and their parents can be incredibly strong. One of the parents’ biggest fears is that their children will not be taken care of after they pass away. This fear is amplified for parents whose child or children have special needs. Parents want to make sure that their children will have the financial and practical support they need to survive after the parents are gone. 

Many families in the United States put off estate planning because it can be an incredibly stressful and daunting process. Taking the time to sit down and think about estate planning for a special needs child can help you and your family immensely. 

Our Lawyers Have Extensive Experience in Special Needs Estate Planning

The special needs estate planning process does not need to be stressful. At the Law Offices of Barton P. Levine, our friendly lawyers focus on listening to our client’s needs and goals. We create tailored estate plans that protect those with special needs and their parents. We will guide you throughout the process and love explaining the process to our clients so they feel a sense of peace regarding their special needs estate planning. Here are five tips for special needs planning in New York.

Write a Letter of Intent

What is a letter of intent? A letter of intent informs interested parties about the child with special needs. Letters of intent are not legally binding documents. However, they go a long way in helping people involved in the care of your child with special needs. The following people can benefit from reading your letter of intent:

  • Trustees in the special needs trust
  • Advocates 
  • Guardians of the child with special needs
  • Any other people involved with the care of your child with special needs

What should you include in your letter of intent? You should include any information that could help people care for your child with special needs. Including the following information can be extremely helpful:

  • The functional and mental abilities of your child with special needs
  • The routines and interests of your child with special needs
  • Any situations that your child finds upsetting or challenging
  • Your child’s preference and likes
  • The food preferences of your child with special needs
  • The numbers and contact information for doctors and any other medical providers

Be sure to update your letter of intent as your family grows and changes, or as your child with special needs adapts or changes. 

Create a Special Needs Trust

Special needs trusts are becoming more and more popular for parents with special needs. In a special needs trust, the parents transfer assets into the trust and name the special needs individual as the beneficiary of the trust. The benefit of creating a special needs trust is to shield money and property inside the trust from being considered assets. People with disabilities will not qualify for certain government benefits if they own assets above the limit set by the government. 

Parents can name a trustee or trustee who they trust to manage the trust. A trustee has a fiduciary duty to manage the trust and assets for the benefit of the person with a disability. Using a special needs trust is just one part of an overall special needs plan. There are two main types of special needs trusts — first-party special needs trusts, and third-party special needs trusts. At the Law Offices of Barton P. Levine, we can help you determine which type of trust will work best for you and your family. 

Determine How Much Money to Transfer into a Special Needs Trust

At Law Offices of Barton P. Levine, our lawyers can help you determine how much money your child will need over the long run. It is important to consider the lifestyle of the beneficiary. How much money will it take for the child to maintain their current lifestyle? If at all possible, it is wise to try to keep the lifestyle of your child the same as to not disturb him or her even more so should you pass away. Many parents allot more money to their child with special needs because the cost of their care will be significantly more than those who do not have a disability.

At the same time, it is not wise to overfund a special needs trust. You may want to think about capping the number of your assets left to the special needs trust. Or, you can use a “pot trust” or a sprinkle provision that allows a trustee to give trust assets that are in excess of a certain amount to another family member without special needs. Using a life insurance policy to fund a special needs trust can also be a valid option for young families who are parents of special needs children. 

Include Special Needs Planning in All of Your Estate Planning Documents

A special needs trust is only one aspect of special needs estate planning. Special needs estate planning should include a power of attorney document. Your power of attorney should give a named person the power to fund the special needs trust with your assets. Additionally, your will or any other trust agreement should include provisions related to your special needs child. 

All of your estate planning documents should reflect which assets you intend to go to your child with special needs. At Law Offices of Barton P. Levine, we provide our clients with comprehensive estate planning documents. Our clients leave our offices assured that they will continue to financially care for their child with special needs after their death. 

Contact a Skilled Special Needs Lawyer 

The more time you have to engage in special needs estate planning, the better. Contact the Law Offices of Barton P. Levine as soon as possible to learn how we can help you with special needs estate planning.

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