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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Monday, December 26, 2016

When the Caregiver Dies

How can you plan for the future of your special needs child when you die?

Everyone can benefit from having a current estate plan in place to address their wishes and the needs of their family when they die. This is perhaps even truer for parents of children with special needs. Starting estate planning early and adjusting often can be essential to the provision of quality care for special needs children once their caregivers die.

For Rita Vaszuez, who lost her husband to cancer last year, concern about what might happen to her son Gabriel when she passes is at the forefront of her mind.  Rita is a 68 years old widow who is singlehandedly raising her autistic son, who is now 37 years old. Like all parents, Rita worries about what will happen to Gabriel once she is gone.

Individuals with disabilities have some obviously special needs that need to be addressed, such as financial security, access to appropriate health care, personal safety, quality of life and above all, a trusted caregiver to lovingly care for them. Parents of special needs children always wonder, “who will strive to understand my child’s needs and care for them like I do?”

 What can you do to ensure your child’s best care?

The best thing you can do for your own piece of mind is to develop a plan for your child’s care now. Think about what you want their lives to be like. Would they be happiest staying in the family home with another caregiver? Or would they thrive in a group home environment? What about daily habits? Many individuals with special needs require significant structure in their daily lives and rely heavily on familiar patterns. Keeping a list of daily activities, likes, dislikes, behaviors and triggers can greatly assist a transition in caregivers.

One of the most critical pieces of your special needs estate plan is the development of a special needs trust. Individuals with special needs are eligible for a host of state and federal benefits, but they must meet certain financial criteria. One of the worst things you can do is name them as a beneficiary to a large or even modest estate. This is important information to pass on to other family members and well-intentioned friends who might consider leaving assets to your child in their wills.

This is not to say that no one should leave your child out of his or her will. Instead, set up a special needs trust and ask them to bequeath assets to the trust. This will ensure that your child is taken care of financially, without losing critical government benefits like Social Security Income and Medi-Cal.

Do you have a child with special needs?

Making a plan for the care of your special needs loved one when you pass can help alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with worrying about the unknown. Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning has helped hundreds of clients and their families develop estate plans that address their personal family needs. Call today at 925-224-1185 to schedule a consultation. 


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