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Estate planning tips: Children with special needs

Planning for your family's future financial needs can be intimidating. It leads to a myriad of questions. How much will it cost to keep the house? What should I set aside for medical and dental bills? What about college costs? These questions multiply when a member of the family has special needs. Special needs like Down's syndrome, autism or cerebral palsy can lead to additional costs, and require additional planning.

How can I help ensure my family's future financial stability?

One step a family can take to help relieve the stress of future financial costs involves putting together an estate plan. This plan can help to better ensure that future costs are covered in a number of ways. Some of the more common legal tools that can be used to help meet these needs include:

  • Putting together a will. A will is a basic, but powerful, estate planning tool. This document outlines not only how assets should be distributed, but can also provide information to a guardian about the care of a special needs child.
  • Putting together a special needs trust. There are government assistance and third party programs that offer financial assistance to individuals with special needs. If an individual has too many monetary assets, qualification for these benefits can be lost. These benefits help with the basics, but a special needs trust can be put together to provide additional funds for other things your child may need. This can include extra funds to attend camps that may not be fully covered by other programs or additional medical equipment that can make life easier for your child.
  • Discussing your wishes with loved ones. This includes designated guardians, family members and other loved ones that will continue to be a part of your child's life. Let them know your wishes on how the child should be taken care of, what activities you would like to see them involved in and any concerns you may have. Beginning this discussion can put everyone's mind at ease as it provides an opportunity for everyone to ask questions and iron out any potential issues.

These are just a few of the more common steps you can take to help better ensure your family's finances are protected in the future. A will and trust attorney can discuss additional options and help to put together a plan that meets your wishes.

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