Long-Term Life Planning Tips for Your Special Needs Child

Making plans for the future can be overwhelming and scary, especially if you have children to consider. When your child also has special needs, there are so many factors to think about that you may not even know where to begin, yet it’s important to start making plans now so that you’ll be prepared for any contingency down the road.

Some of the questions that might arise as you begin planning for your child’s future include how you might find the funds to pay for their care once they reach adulthood, or who will oversee their needs after you’re gone. These questions aren’t easy ones to answer, and no one solution will work for everyone. However, there are several ways you can start planning now for an uncertain future and put your mind at ease.

Here are some of the best tips on how to do just that.

Draft a will
The will process is not an easy one, and it doesn’t come cheap, but it’s imperative to have a well-planned document that states your intentions to protect your child should anything happen to you. Consult a lawyer who is familiar with your state’s laws regarding children with special needs, because you’ll need to make sure that the correct wording is included in the paperwork. For instance, your child may be named by a judge as a beneficiary unless you state otherwise, which might render him ineligible for state assistance in the future.

Appoint a guardian
When you’re gone, who will take care of your child’s needs and oversee his care? This is a big question, and the person who takes on this responsibility will need to be someone who has been in your child’s life for a while, is familiar with his needs, and understands that the commitment is for a lifetime, not just until he turns 18.

It’s also important to make sure you leave detailed instructions in writing as to the care of your child, no matter what their age is. Include his routine and any specifics about likes and dislikes, what makes him the most comfortable, what places and foods to avoid, etc.

Create a special needs trust
Creating a trust where you can start saving for your child’s future will not only allow you some peace of mind, but you’ll know that the money won’t interfere with any future federal benefits your child receives. Also, you can make the trust the beneficiary of your estate, so that if something happens to you, any funds from your estate will go right into the account rather than holding up your child’s Supplemental Security Income, for instance.

Communicate with your family
It’s important to talk to your family–your parents and siblings, specifically–about your plans for the future, especially if you appoint a guardian from outside the family. Make sure everyone is on the same page as far as your financial plans, because any gifts to your child will need to be put into a special needs trust to avoid complications with their benefits.

No matter what your child’s needs might be, there is a wealth of information available for parents, and these are just a few examples to get you started in the long-term planning process for your child’s future. It’s always best practice to seek the advice of an attorney to make sure you take the best approach for your situation. By laying the foundation now, you will have peace of mind that your child will be in good hands.

The article was written for Little Friends by guest contributor, Jenny Wise, who homeschools her four awesome children and chronicles her experiences at SpecialHomeEducator.com.