Special Needs Estate Planning
What help will the government give us to help financially with our special needs child?
The federal and state governments have numerous benefits that are available to individuals with special needs. These programs vary from state to state, but many also have some type of Medicaid waiver that will cover residential, daycare, career, and other basic services.
Some of these major programs include: (i) Medicaid, which gives basic medical care; (ii) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provide allowances for food and shelter to people with disabilities; and (iii) Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which helps those with a disability, but requires that the individual hasn’t been able to work for at least a year because of the disability.
There's a lot to keep straight. How do we stay organized?
If you have a child with special needs, it’s critical that you maintain all of your documentation in one safe place that you can access easily when needed.
Experts suggest that parents of children with special needs should have a file or lockbox to keep the information that future caregivers will need to care for the child after the parents have passed away.
Make sure that you regularly update the information in the file when there are changes in your family’s situation, changes in the needs or desires of your child, and to detail any other issues that may help future caregivers in caring for your child.
So what exactly should be in my file?
Of course, there is no exact list, but you should include these types of documents and maintain your file with any changes:
- Important legal documents, such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, medical records, prescriptions, and health insurance cards;
- A Letter of Intent – a non-binding document that gives vital information about the child with special needs to his or her future caregivers. This can be details like your child’s sleeping preferences, eating habits and favorite foods, activities and hobbies, and other aspects of his or her routine;
- Directions as to your wishes for final arrangements, e.g., burial services, final resting place, or other details you want carried out;
- Avoid head and heartaches by including an advance health care and financial directives such as powers of attorney, living wills, and health care proxies;
- Copies of special needs, living, or insurance trusts that may be in effect. (The signed copies or originals may be required to complete property transfers, so also include details about the location of the originals);
- A list of major assets and information about where they are located, such as insurance policies, investments, bank accounts with policy and account numbers and contact info for brokers, insurance agents, and investment advisors;
- If you have had them created, include the guardianship documents;
- The contact information for government agencies or case workers with whom you have worked;
- A list of government benefits your child may receive, as well as copies of completed applications; and
- Any other documentation that would assist future caregivers, like tax returns for your child, information about housing, educational programs, and family photographs and small mementos.
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