How to plan for a person with special needs

If you’re taking care of someone with special needs in California, you’ve probably wondered who’s going to take care of that person after you pass away. To make sure he or she receives the best possible care, it’s important to start planning sooner rather than later. You may be young now, but you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future — and if you don’t have an estate plan, your loved one may be left unprotected.

How can you plan for a loved one with special needs?

Someone who has special needs will need a steady supply of income to pay for assisted living, medications, therapy, doctor’s visits and anything else he or she needs to enjoy a good quality of life. One option is a special needs trust. If you leave your assets directly to your loved one, the resulting income may disqualify him or her from receiving government benefits. But if you place the assets in a trust, your loved one won’t technically own the assets, meaning he or she can continue to receive government benefits as well as extra income.

During the estate planning process, you may consider leaving your assets to another individual and entrusting him or her with the care of your loved one. The idea is that this individual will use these assets to provide for your loved one with special needs. Again, since your loved one doesn’t own these assets, he or she won’t lose his or her government assistance. However, you can’t guarantee that the individual won’t run off with the money or misuse the funds in another way.

If you don’t have a lot of assets, you may simply leave them all to the individual with special needs. This may not impact his or her ability to receive government assistance if he or she doesn’t receive a large inheritance. However, you should talk to an attorney just to be sure.

Do you need an attorney when you write an estate plan?

When dealing with individuals with special needs, making a single mistake can be costly. For example, if you didn’t know that a large inheritance can prevent someone from receiving government assistance, you might have left your loved one all your assets without thinking about it. An attorney could keep you from making these kinds of mistakes.