October is National Special Needs Law Month

In October, special needs planning attorneys throughout the country work to educate those with special needs, their families, and caregivers about their legal needs. Special needs planning can involve special needs trusts, care management, advocacy to preserve educational or civil rights, public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, and many other important issues.

As most individuals with a special needs family member know, their situation is not unique. In fact, one in ten families in the U.S. have a child or loved one with special needs.  This is a societal issue which is only growing in significance. The government will often provide assistance to those with special needs, but it usually fails to cover the real cost of caring for a family member with disabilities.

Altman & Associates has an entire practice area dedicated to helping families navigate the complexities of special needs planning. We work with families to make sure they are familiar with all of the key planning considerations, including:

  • Financial Factors – Financial factors include mortgages and other expenses, insurance policies, investments, and savings plans like ABLE savings accounts
  • Legal Factors – Legal factors include estate planning, weighing guardianship with less restrictive alternatives, and creating a Special Needs Trust to ensure a child’s future
  • Government Factors – Government factors include identifying and supplementing government benefits, such as residential services, supported employment, and respite care
  • Family & Support Factors – Family and support factors include family’s values, the parents’ careers, sibling considerations, and contributions of extended family members
  • Emotional Factors – Emotional factors such as dealing with both positive and negative feelings, staying connected with others, and using strong emotions to fuel advocacy

Lacking the proper guidance from an experienced special needs planning attorney, many families make critical mistakes in special needs planning, such as:

  • Procrastination: Putting off tough decisions is a common problem in estate planning. The problem is only magnified when it comes to providing essential planning for your special needs child or loved one.
  • Disinheriting a special needs family member: Many families believe this step is necessary to ensure a special needs family member receives government benefits, but this step is not necessary with proper special needs planning.
  • Establishing a general trust or non-specific Special Needs Trust: Your loved one needs a Special Needs Trust, which provides for their specific needs and receives specific tax and benefits eligibility treatment. Moreover, your family member has specific needs which require particularized planning solutions – not a “one size fits all” solution.
  • Not inviting family to contribute to a Special Needs Trust: Other family members can assist in the future care of a special needs family member through contributions, or including the Special Needs Trust in their own estate plans.
  • Relying on the rest of the family after you are gone: The only constant with family dynamics is that they change over time. There are often complicated emotional, financial, and timing considerations involved with committing to care for a special needs family member in the future. Without a specific plan and proper financial support in place, your loved one’s future is not secure.
  • Choosing the wrong Successor Trustee: A major component of a Special Needs Trust is selecting a Successor Trustee to take over after you have passed. Too often, individuals who lack proper ethical standards due to greed or circumstances – even family members – will take advantage of their power over the Special Needs Trust.

Special needs family members are like any other family member – they deserve love and care. But it takes more planning and resources to properly care for special needs children or loved ones. Our attorneys understand the pitfalls of special needs planning and can help you avoid costly mistakes. Contact us by phone at (301) 468-3220 or online to schedule a special needs planning consultation.

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