Why You Need to Consider Mental Health in Estate Planning

An estimated 19.9% of Americans hold a diagnosis of a behavioral or mental health issue at any time. Mental illness affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. If one of your heirs has a mental or behavioral health diagnosis that impacts their ability to make sound decisions or care for themselves, working with an estate planning lawyer will help you take into account their future needs and circumstances.

Prevalence of Mental and Behavioral Health Disorders

In 2020, the prevalence of mental and behavioral health disorders exceeded most other chronic health conditions. For the first time, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease came second to mental health disorders, totaling more than 59 million Americans in 2020. Mental health professionals have found evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic may have fueled the surge in American teenagers and adults receiving a mental health condition diagnosis. In addition, reducing social opportunities, job loss and isolation contribute to developing mental health disorders.

Who Has Mental or Behavioral Health Disorders

When considering who to include as an heir in your estate plan, remember that people of all ages may have a mental or behavioral health disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed teenagers in early 2022 and found that 37% of teens reported symptoms of poor mental health. These totals are a 40% increase compared to results from 2009. Among working adults, 76% of employees who participated in a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review reported having at least one mental health symptom in the past 12 months.

How to Pass Your Assets to the Next Generation

Estate planning becomes tricky when your heir has a mental health diagnosis that impacts their decision-making and their ability to hold and maintain assets. An estate planning lawyer can help you account for your loved one’s needs with a trust. Creating a sound special needs or other type of applicable trust ensures that your loved one with a mental health condition will benefit. In addition, a trust can protect the assets from misuse and safeguards against a loss of eligibility for income-based government insurance and programs for people with mental health disorders.

A Trust Provides Long-term Assistance

Setting up a trust ensures that your loved one will have assets to pay for living expenses, mental health services and medical needs. You can set up stipulations in the faith that your loved one can only use the assets for certain expenses. Another option is to have the trust disburse only a certain amount of funds per year. Placing conditions reduces the risk of your loved one spending all the assets on items or services you do not want them to access. Finally, having the trust gives you some control over your investments, even after your death.

Consider a Special Needs Trust

Your estate planning attorney may recommend a special needs trust if your heir is an adult who cannot legally make their own decisions due to a severe mental or physical disability. In addition, a special needs trust prevents a loss of eligibility for government programs and services.

Including a Special Trust Provision

Within your trust, you may include a provision that considers a change in your loved one’s mental health status or diagnosis. For example, the provision could consist of a stipulation for mental health intervention, medication maintenance or a requirement for professional treatment.

An estate planning lawyer can help you establish a set of documents that considers the unique needs related to mental health. When you or one of your heirs has a mental health diagnosis, setting up your estate to account for their needs provides you with peace of mind. To learn more about estate planning and how it can be impacted by mental health concerns, contact The Knee Law Firm in Hackensack at (201) 996-1200 or submit our online contact form to request a consultation.