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Parents, Grandparents and Disabled Children – Coordinated Planning

The Census Bureau tells us that 1 in every 6 families now has a disabled person within their extended family.  This means there are an increasing number of disabled adults who will become orphans as their parents age and pass.


We suggest parents with a disabled child create a formal care plan to prepare for the time when they are no longer able to care for their disabled child.  This plan should address the particular needs of the child, the manner for the delivery of care and how the child’s care needs might be paid for over the expected lifetime of the child. 


These plans are an essential component of an estate plan.  In our experience they are a lot of work, both emotionally and in terms of time and commitment. The care plan should include the child’s adult siblings and grandparents, as these plans work most effectively when they are inter-generational, comprehensive and have coordinated planning goals, especially as to public benefits planning. 


For instance, if grandparents wish to remember a disabled grandchild in their Wills and should leave a large bequest for the benefit of a disabled grandchild who is receiving publicly funded medical care, the result is the likely termination of the grandchild’s essential public health care benefits.  Not a good result and certainly not what the grandparent’s envisioned when making their estate plan.


However, grandparents (and other family members, too) in consultation with the child’s parents, could leave a bequest  for the benefit of a special needs grandchild in a Special Needs Trust without the loss of the grandchild’s medical benefits.


In most states, Nevada included, a disabled person can have only $2,000 in assets and still qualify for Medicaid or Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  These programs, while helpful, and often essential, rarely provide the level of care needed by a disabled person.  With a Special Needs Trust,  the extended family can leave gifts that effectively enhance the quality of life for their special needs child or grandchild and still preserve basic public benefits.


If you are a parent, grandparent, or a sibling of a special needs brother or sister, be sure that your family has coordinated their planning for the preservation of basic public benefits.  Usually, one Special Needs Trust is sufficient for the entire family of a disabled individual.


At Jeffrey Burr, our experienced attorneys have helped many families with the complexities of comprehensive planning for special needs beneficiaries.