Talking about death can be difficult for anyone, but if you have a family member with an intellectual disability, that conversation may be even more difficult. However, estate planning is even more critical for family members with developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, discussions regarding estate planning for these individuals occur less frequently than for those with normal cognitive abilities.
Why Planning Is Important
Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other conditions that affect the brain are collectively known as intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). New medical treatments have significantly increased the lifespan of people with IDD, leading to the possibility that these individuals could outlive their parents or caregivers.
As a result, individuals with IDD need to determine who will oversee their assets and property after they have passed away. You should talk with your loved one about their estate plan, including discussing arrangements for who will look after these assets and property after they have passed.
If you have an older family member with Alzheimer’s or another type of cognitive mental disability, get their input before they lose their reasoning abilities. Sometimes, individuals with IDD can also get dementia later in life, creating new challenges for them.
Consider the Planning Processing Early
Estate planning allows an individual to create a plan for how their assets will be distributed after death. This process can help the family avoid unnecessary stress, fights, and legal fees. Estate planning also provides funds to cover the costs of death. Those who want to navigate the estate planning process should consult a legal professional in this particular area. People with disabilities are especially encouraged to reach out to an estate planning lawyer to help address these specific concerns.
A comprehensive estate plan for someone with intellectual disabilities usually includes a power of attorney, a special needs trust, and a guardianship to ensure that all aspects of the individual’s life are covered. If your loved one is dependent on Social Security Disability payments, a trust can supplement that income and allow them to live comfortably.
While it can be challenging to have an end-of-life conversation with your IDD loved one, it’s never too early to begin the planning process. As with other estate matters, family members can always modify the estate plan if your loved one’s needs change.
Consider a Special Needs Trust
For individuals with disabilities, establishing a special needs trust during estate planning can be beneficial. A special needs trust is a legal arrangement and fiduciary relationship that allows a person with disabilities to receive income without reducing their eligibility for government benefits. A grantor establishes a trust and appoints a trustee to oversee the disbursement of assets from the trust. The trust supplements government benefits but does not replace them.
A special needs trust is a popular method that can be used to help someone in need without jeopardizing their eligibility for government assistance programs. The trust allows the person to appoint a trustee who will oversee all the assets while the individual is alive. After the person has passed, the trustee will continue to manage the assets.
Individuals who qualify for government aid can benefit from this type of trust. The assets are safe and protected in case of mismanagement by family members. Additionally, all the assets are in one place. Assets are also protected from creditors by the trust. Also, creditors cannot access any funds set aside for trust beneficiaries.
Talk to an Estate Planning Lawyer
Estate planning for those with special needs can be challenging for family members and caregivers. However, you should address end-of-life agreements with those individuals. If you need assistance with estate planning for a developmentally disabled family member, contact an experienced estate planning lawyer. Our legal team will review several options and help you choose the ideal course. Make sure to call the Knee Law Firm at 201-996-1200 or fill out the online form to schedule a consultation.