It’s important to provide support and stability for loved ones with special needs. As individuals age, family situations change and new needs develop, you may want to provide some additional stability by setting up an estate plan.

Although the concept of an estate plan can be fairly straightforward, there are some specific issues you may want to consider for children or grandchildren with special needs. A simple will is not always enough.

The role of a will

When you have something specific and essential you would like to achieve with your estate plan, your will is probably just a starting point. You would typically want to outline your general goals in legally binding and relatively clear language.

In short, your will would tell everyone what you want and, optionally, why you want it. This should both empower the court to act on your behalf and reduce misunderstandings among your family members.

The other options

Besides a will, there are other, more assertive actions you may be able to take. The most common of these are establishing and funding special needs trusts.

Trusts are typically separate entities from you, in a legal sense. This means that they would probably not be subject to probate court or any associated disputes. Special needs trusts have the added advantage of being highly customizable and having strict rules for fund use. It is very difficult to abuse these types of assets.

There are various ways that you might establish a trust and supply it with the necessary funds to support your child or grandchild. Generally speaking, it is a balance between maintaining ownership of your assets and protecting them for your loved one’s benefit. We have helped many clients analyze their goals and pursue the most advantageous strategy for their unique situations.