David Eastman 2013-06-12 00:48:40
David Eastman received his bachelor’s from Brigham Young University. In 2003, while attending California Western School of Law, Eastman received the Wiley Manual Award for his pro bono services for the San Diego Volunteer Program. He received his JD from Arizona State University College of Law where he focused on estate planning. He has been a part of the Morris, Hall & Kinghorn family since 2005. He is also a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys. While Eastman practices in all estate planning areas, he focuses on the estate administration & probate. He recently worked as a co-writer on the Arizona Estate & Probate Planning Handbook. For more info call 928-778-2655 or visit www.MorrisTrust.com. The parents of Susie love their daughter like no other. From the day she was born they have doted on her and given her everything that she needs to be a healthy, happy little girl. Many of us can see ourselves in Susie’s parents. However, Susie has autism, and with it come special needs that many other parents do not have to face or plan for. Families with special needs children should ensure that they have proper estate planning done to protect their loved ones. Most of us know that planning for death is important, but for families with special needs loved ones, it is vital. If proper planning is not done, a special needs child will lose the public benefits they so desperately need to maintain their quality of life. There are different categories of public benefits that a special needs loved one might qualify for. The first category is called entitlement programs. These programs don’t require low-income or assets in order to qualify. The two most common entitlement programs are Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), and Medicare. The second category of public benefits are known as means-tested programs, which include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, In Home Supportive Services, Subsidized or Section 8 Housing and Temporary Aid to Needy Families. It is critical that these means-tested public benefits are preserved for those with special needs. The loss of Medicaid can be devastating for them. Means-tested programs generally do not allow a person participating in the program to have more than $2,000. Thus the receipt of an inheritance will disqualify a special needs loved one until he or she has spent the inheritance down to $2,000, at which time they will have to re-apply to once again receive those benefits. When Susie’s parents pass away, the one consistent thing in her life will be gone. In order to maintain a sense of stability and security for Susie, proper estate planning must be done. This will allow the preservation of the means-tested public benefits and ensure she retains her quality of life. At the very minimum, each family with a special needs child should have the following documents in place: 1) A Last Will and Testament- This document allows the parent to appoint a guardian over minor children and children with special needs. The guardian is in charge of caring for the special needs child. If a guardian is not appointed in a last will and testament, the court will appoint one of their choosing. In addition, a letter of intent should be written. This is not a legal document, but it may be the most important thing a parent can do for a child and the appointed guardian. The letter of intent outlines everything a guardian will need to know about the special needs child. It provides instructions that will enable them to keep the child’s life as consistent as possible. This letter should answer some of the following questions: What activities does the child enjoy? What is their daily schedule? What are their likes and dislikes? What medications do they take? What treatments have worked and not worked? Do they have a favorite blanket or toy? If written properly this letter will give clear instructions and guidance to guardians, creating stability at a time that will undoubtedly be overwhelming. 2) Special Needs Trust- The second critical estate planning document that is needed for parents with special needs children is a special needs trust. Most special needs children are uninsurable, which means that they generally incur outrageous medical care costs. The greatest public benefit a special needs child receives is health care coverage. In order to ensure that a child maintains their eligibility for public benefits, an inheritance cannot be left directly to them. The assets should be left to them in a special needs trust. The assets in the special needs trust can be used to supplement the needs of the child. As long as the inheritance is kept in the special needs trust and used properly by the trustee, the child will continue to qualify for public benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Be aware that many of the available public benefits are continually being decreased as Congress tries to cut costs. This means that their parents will need to provide more supplemental income than in times past. It is estimated that the lifetime costs to care for someone with a severe disability could range anywhere from $5 to $10 million. Susie’s parents have options when it comes to ensuring that their daughter will always be taken care of. You can ensure that your family is cared for as well with a living trust.
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