When effectively organized and communicated, an estate plan provides family members and friends with a clear vision of a person’s wishes and intents for allocation of assets, property, and guardianship after he or she is gone. A plan, properly written and filed, can keep an estate from falling into the uncertain hands of probate court.
An estate is the whole of a person’s possessions, and may include items such as homes, cars, furniture, stocks, bank accounts, bonds, social security benefits, and life insurance policies. Allocating property, designating beneficiaries, and detailing trusts are difficult – but necessary – subjects to consider. A number of official documents are prepared during the estate planning process, and can include, for example, a will, a living will, durable power of attorney, and power of attorney forms. Two other estate-planning features many parents consider are special needs trusts and life insurance.
Due to the complexities of assets, tax advantages, legality, and the varying types of special needs trusts, parents of children with cerebral palsy often seek the guidance and experience of an estate planner or an attorney who specializes in estate plans, wills, and special needs trust funds. These professionals, especially when experienced with special needs, can be an important source of information and protection. Accountants, bankers, financial planners, and insurance experts also offer assistance when appropriate.
Estate plans, when drafted by professionals, are seldom challenged or overthrown in court. An estate-planning attorney can also help ensure appropriate legal requirements for the state are met. When involving the counsel of others, parents should take steps to ensure that service providers are not only trustworthy, but are also qualified to handle cerebral palsy matters. Some government support and tax advantages can be jeopardized if not properly provided for.
Parents wish to protect their children by guaranteeing a supportive and secure future. Estate planning arranges effortless transfer of all assets when a parent is no longer able to care for the child.
Although complex, special needs estate planning is extremely significant to the well-being and quality of life of a child with cerebral palsy. It plans far beyond conventional arrangements, such as helping secure the future care team, obtaining support services, and ensuring the least restrictive environment. Estate planning can coordinate home health care, home and auto modifications and personal assistant services, as well as medical equipment, and community resources. Special needs estate planning may also include making a will and a living will, selecting personal guardians, and designating decision-makers – provisions known as durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney. The plans also distribute property; create special needs trust funds; contracts insurance policies; and decides on plan administrators (executors or trustee). Other considerations may include arrangements for medical authorizations, special education matters, and maintaining public benefits after age 18.
These safety measures eliminate uncertainties and apprehensions that family members and friends may experience when trying to determine how to distribute a person’s property. It expresses wishes for proper care of an individual with cerebral palsy. The plan also attempts to prevent having the state determine who the children are going to live with and how property is to be distributed.
A will is an official document that defines a person’s intentions for their property and guardianship of their children. Many people supplement the traditional will with a video will. A living will is a separate declaration for family and medical staff. If a person is unconscious or incapacitated, a living will predetermines a spokesperson to make medical decisions and carry out an individual’s intentions for life support and other artificial measures, such as ventilators and feeding tubes.
Other estate-planning matters beyond medical include taking care of financial issues. An estate-planning document and durable power of attorney documentation eliminates the need for court involvement. A spokesperson, such as a spouse, relative, or friend can be appointed to make major decisions. They can perform financial transactions, such as paying bills, credit cards, medical bills, and other expenses. A medical durable power of attorney form names a specific person to be responsible for the intentions described in a person’s living will. They may make medical decisions, care taking, and educational decisions for the incapacitated or deceased individual is no longer able.
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Special Needs Trust
Special needs trusts are another safeguard for the future planning. These trusts can be created to preserve funds for the long-term care which may be required. A trust can financially assist a person with cerebral palsy without disqualifying them from government assistance programs, such as Medicaid and Supplementary Security Income (SSI). It is important not to protect these benefits, when possible. A well-informed expert versed in these nuances.
Trusts, Estates, Wills and Probate Law
Those who have a child with impairment or disability, often ask, “What will happen to my child when I’m gone?” Lawyers who specialize in trusts, estates, wills, and probate law are able to help parents plan an answer.
Some children require minimal care, while others with severe conditions may require round-the-clock care. Often those with special needs are attached to their parents as their primary caregivers. They’ve learned to understand each other’s needs and preferences. If an unforeseen accident should occur, families have at their disposal tools to plan ahead to inform future caregivers of their wishes for the ongoing care of their child if unforeseen circumstances arise.
Protecting the child’s interests and establishing future care are the roles and responsibility of lawyers who specialize in trusts, estate, will, and probate law. They will help to inventory your assets, protect assets, and establish priorities, trusts, power of attorney, guardianship, and conservatorship where appropriate. They can record your preference for beneficiaries and executors of your estate. These are important designations as they will shape the future care your child receives.
In some circumstances, where your will is contested, they may continue to represent your interests in proving to the courts you were competent at the time your will was filed, your signature is valid, and your estate is secured against any unforeseen challenges.
Parents and primary caregivers who pass away without proper planning and documentation leave the matters in the guidance of the probate court system.
Trust, estate, will and probate law incorporates the following:
- Asset inventory and protection
- Estate litigation
- Estate planning
- Probate and estate administration