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All parents are superheroes, and each wears a different cape. Some are working parents, single parents, older parents, younger parents, but you–you wear the cape of a parent to a special needs child. You truly do it all, from taking care of your child’s needs and ensuring your child has the best care to being your child’s biggest advocate. However, as much as it pains you to think about it, you won’t always be there to save the day. So, how can you ensure your child is taken care of?
Write a Letter of Intent
You know your child backward and forward, but for the person who may be stepping in should the unthinkable happen, it’s different. To be sure your child is taken care of, Special Needs Alliance suggests creating a roadmap for the individual(s) who will be providing care via a letter of intent. In it, you should clearly lay out the amount of care your child needs (and how you anticipate this care will change in the future), medical history, as well as lifestyle/living arrangements. Keep in mind that you may need to update this document, so keep both paper and electronic copies handy.
Put Together a Will
If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to put together a will. It is here that you appoint a guardian to care for your child turns 18. However, what about children that are unable to care for themselves as adults? Friendship Circle explains this is where special needs guardianship comes into play. You can appoint a guardian (or have the court appoint one for you), or explore alternatives such as a durable power of attorney or financial representative. It is important to note that in order to appoint a guardian or representative for an adult, the court must determine competency and find that your child is unable to care for him or her self.
Get Your Ducks in a Row
One of the easiest ways you can care for your child is by ensuring your own ducks are in a row. Explore the best life insurance policy, which will likely be permanent life insurance such as whole life since it doesn’t expire and pays a death benefit. When you’re determining the coverage amount, try to estimate the amount your child will need for long-term care. From that number, subtract government benefits your child will receive, and that gives you a good guess at the amount of insurance you will need to provide. Another step you can take is to purchase burial insurance to cover the cost of your funeral and prevent any financial burdens that may fall on your child, including things like credit card bills, medical bills, and loans.
If you own a business, you need to have a plan in place in the event of your death so your family won’t face any financial hardships from your company. For example, if you have an LLC, make sure your operating agreement is up to date so you have a designated member who will take charge of operations in the event of your death (and be sure to let this person know your wishes should you pass away). Making sure your business is properly overseen after you are gone will help keep it functioning for the benefit of your heirs. Click here to set up an LLC with the assistance of an online service; you can also hire an attorney to accomplish this, or if you’re pretty good with legalese you can sort through the red tape yourself.
Work with a Financial Planner
For an added layer of protection and peace of mind that you’re making all the right decisions, work with a financial planner who has experience working with parents of children with special needs. They can help you navigate the costs of long-term care, health insurance, and therapies, as well as ensure your child is taking advantage of any and all financial assistance, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). A financial planner can also help you navigate the ins and outs of the best life insurance policies to give your child the biggest benefit.
Don’t Leave a Traditional Inheritance
Leaving your child an inheritance could greatly impact their eligibility for disability benefits such as Medicaid. Instead, explore other options such as a special needs trust or ABLE Account. Each comes with various pros and cons, so you’ll want to do your research on each. For example, special needs trusts don’t have a contribution limit, while ABLE accounts have a yearly limit and SSI payments cease if it exceeds $100,000. On the other hand, distributions from special needs trusts are subject to tax, whereas those from ABLE accounts aren’t.
The health and well-being of your child are all that ultimately matters. However, you need to make sure you have a care plan in place for after you’re gone. You’re a special needs parent superhero, but every hero needs a sidekick to get the job done.