Estate planning is a crucial step toward protecting your loved ones in a world without you—and children with special needs require special considerations.

Why is estate planning important?

If you don’t have a plan in place, the courts will decide who gets what of your estate in what usually is a drawn-out, expensive process that can have acrimonious impacts on those you leave behind.

Estate plans also ensure that dependents, if any, are taken care of. This is a significant reason why estate planning is so important to your heirs.

Putting together an estate plan for special needs kids

The biggest challenge for many parents putting together an estate plan for special needs kids is knowing what type of care they will need as they get older. Many special needs kids will become eligible for government benefits once they turn 18, so with the help of a qualified attorney, their parents must take care to draft an estate plan that won’t disqualify their kids from receiving these benefits.

Here are five things you can do to make sure your child will be well taken care of after you have passed.

1. Get help

Estate planning is a complicated process. Talk to a qualified attorney experienced in estate planning and estate law as well as your child’s doctor. The latter is crucial since they may be able to tell you how your child’s needs will change as they get older, and you want an estate plan in place that will meet those future needs.

2. Create estate plan goals

With your attorney and doctor, talk to your family to determine how your estate should be divided among your beneficiaries. Your family may support setting aside more for the child with special needs or less, depending on the benefits your child receives or will be eligible to receive when they’re older.

3. Establish a special needs trust

A properly drafted special needs trust can supplement your child’s income throughout life without disqualifying them from receiving government benefits. You’ll need to choose a trustee to manage your child’s trust.

Choose someone you trust — a relative, your attorney, a trust company — to act as trustee. This can be a tough choice: Make sure the person you select truly has the child’s best interests at heart.

4. Consider an ABLE account

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts that can help beneficiaries who have become disabled before the age of 26 pay for qualifying expenses such as disability treatment costs and housing. You can contribute up to $15,000 per year to the account, which can hold up to $100,000.

5. Periodically review your estate plan

Your child’s care needs will evolve as they get older — so your estate plan should, too. Every three to five years, sit down with your child’s doctor and attorney to review your plan. You don’t want an outdated estate plan to miss meeting your child’s needs after you pass on.

The bottom line

Call an experienced estate-planning attorney, and schedule a talk with your child’s doctor. It’s never too early to put together an estate plan, but it can be too late.

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