Apr 10, 2010

Parents and Grandparents: Planning for Your Disabled Child

Parents and grandparents naturally worry about planning for their disabled child or grandchild. And that adds up to a lot of worried minds: According to the 2000 US Census, between 13% - 16% of families are raising a child with special needs. The figures for autism are particularly worrisome; in 2009, 1 of every 110 children was diagnosed with some form of autism. For boys, that figure is 1 in 70.

Today's medical advances mean more and more special needs children are outliving their parents. That makes planning for their lifetime care and support absolutely essential. But beware: Leaving an inheritance outright to your special needs child or grandchild could be disastrous for them, depriving them of essential SSI, Medicaid or other means-tested government benefits.

Instead, a Special Needs Trust - also known as a Supplemental Needs Trust - should be the cornerstone of planning for your disabled child. A Special Needs Trust is a trust you establish with your child or granchild as beneficiary. Funds in the trust may be used to provide items and services government benefits will not pay for - special therapies, specialized wheelchairs, transportation to visit family members, etc. Financial planning also comes into the picture. Often, insurance on the parents' or grandparents' lives provides the necessary trust funds.For a calculator from MetLife to help you determine what your child or grandchild's lifetime expenses will be, click here.

Selecting a trustee for your child's Special Needs Trust also must be done with the greatest of care. Administering this type of trust has special requirements. The trustee will need to work with an attorney who understands the rules of trust administration and what the trust can and cannot pay for, so that your child's government benefits are not jeopardized.

As you can see, the Special Needs Trust is a highly complex instrument. The guidance of an attorney with expertise in Special Needs Planning is essential.

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