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Putting Together an Appropriate Financial Plan for a Child with Special Needs

Most parents recognize that they need to consider their estate plan in terms of how to protect their children in the future. But when your child has special emotional, physical or mental challenges, the process of estate planning is even more important. One of the main reasons you want to put together an appropriate estate plan is to preserve that child’s eligibility for programs such as government benefits.

special needs planning

Unfortunately, many of the different estate planning tactics that are out there today may be appropriate for other children but may not fit the requirements of your special needs child. For example, using trusts that do not consider the unique needs of the special needs child could jeopardize your minor’s ability to access government benefits in the future.

One common trap is beneficiary designations in retirement plans. Beneficiary designations are common tools in retirement saving plans that give you a lot of flexibility for passing on an inheritance since you can designate primary and contingent beneficiaries to receive your benefits. The flexibility and convenience of leaving funds behind in retirement plans, however, can have a major unintended financial influence on those receiving government benefits because of their special needs. Qualifying for Medicaid, for example, could be jeopardized if you use these beneficiary designations to pass on assets to your loved one.

The best way to avoid these problems is to put together a special needs trust and leave the assets intended for the child inside that trust. The special needs trust is used to supplement benefits that are already received from government programs without jeopardizing the person’s eligibility to receive them. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney who has years of experience helping parents with special needs children is strongly recommended.

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