Estate Planning for a Child with a Disability

When beginning the estate planning process, you want to make sure you create a clear and comprehensive plan for your loved ones in the event you become incapacitated or pass away. If you have a child with a physical or mental disability, the estate planning process can become increasingly complex, and it is important that you work with a qualified estate planning attorney, such as Douglas C. Lauenstein, to ensure that your child is kept safe and cared for. Here, estate planning attorney Douglas C. Lauenstein provides insight on estate planning when you have a child with a disability, and how our team can assist you throughout the entirety of the estate planning process. 

Consider Establishing a Special Needs Trust 

One common option for the parents of children with disabilities is establishing a Special Needs Trust (SNT). A SNT’s primary purpose is to provide support for a dependent without excluding them from potential government assistance programs in the future. This financial support is usually allocated for areas including entertainment, travel, pet care and other recreational expenses. SNT’s are generally separated into two categories, self-settled trusts and third-party trusts, each of which have varying restrictions on how they can be used. Self-settled, or first-party trusts, tend to occur if the individual owned property before the onset of his/her disability or receives an inheritance outright. Third-party trusts are more common, in which an individual can protect the primary beneficiary with disabilities and control the delegation of assets to additional beneficiaries. 

Research ABLE Accounts for Your Loved Ones 

Similar to establishing a Special Needs Trust, an ABLE account can be a great option for you and your child or children with special needs. ABLE accounts stem from the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act that was passed in 2014, and are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their family. Contributions to this account can be made by family, friends and outside organizations, and provide extensive benefits for individuals with special needs. ABLE accounts are available to individuals who suffered a disability prior to turning 26, and have a maximum contribution limit of $15,000 total per year. ABLE accounts are an important consideration for your estate plan to help combat additional expenses that your special needs child may occur, such as additional costs for education, assistive technology, personal support and healthcare expenses.  

Establish Clear Care and Guardianship Standards in Your Estate Plan 

As you get into the details of your estate plan, you can never be too comprehensive in your directions. Estate planning can be an extremely complex process, and when clear instructions are not given, beneficiaries may scramble to pick up the pieces after you pass away. Be proactive in speaking to your loved ones about their plans for the future, and discuss their ability to care for your disabled children after you are no longer able to. Be sure to discuss financial, emotional and physical considerations that their appointed guardian will have to uphold on a daily basis, and create a detailed outline of the standard of care you wish to be met. Additionally, if your child is nearing the age of eighteen, research the adult guardianship process in your state to make sure you and your loved ones are prepared in advance. In Maryland, the Office of Adult Services provides resources and guidance on Maryland adult guardianship laws, helping promote safety, stability and independence for your disabled child.

Consult With Maryland Estate Planning Attorney Douglas C. Lauenstein Today

Managing day to day life when you have a child with disabilities can be difficult, and thinking about the future can often feel overwhelming. Discussing care options for your children is a sensitive topic, but being proactive in your estate planning journey can provide comfort and peace of mind. Baltimore attorney Douglas C. Lauenstein has extensive experience in estate planning, and works diligently to ensure that you have a comprehensive estate plan to provide for your child for years to come. To see how our estate planning team can assist you, contact our office today.

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