Organization: 1st Step to Estate Planning for Families with Special Needs
It’s never too late to plan for the future when you have a child with disabilities. While it’s easy to feel that the future is far away and there will always be enough time to plan, we all know that life offers no guarantees.
In fact, when it comes to making sure your child with special needs is guaranteed care, if and when you are unable to provide care, a good strategy is to prepare an estate plan — now.
Planning an Estate Plan early offers important benefits. Since prior property planning saves on costly mistakes, you can save money. Also, your entire family will enjoy peace of mind as time marches on.
Estate planning can feel overwhelming, but when you have the appropriate assistance from a qualified and caring estate planning attorney — especially one familiar with the ins and outs of special needs — you can get through the process correctly and expeditiously.
There are three important parts to the estate planning process: 1) getting organized 2) creating a plan and 3) routine plan review and updating. In this article, we will discuss organization for estate planning for your child with disabilities/special needs…
Organization is the Key to Success.
If you don’t get your proverbial ducks in a row, the estate planning process will take far longer than necessary. And, you may forget something important. Getting organized will allow you to create a strategy that will help advisors assist in preparing the documents that will best serve your family in the future.
“Organization is imperative. Without it, you may have overlapping or competing assets or protections that will not work the way you expect,” says Alex Hilsen, Esq., LL.M., estate planning attorney and financial advisor at Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler.
A Place for Everything
Get a filing cabinet or a box or folder that will be homebase for your collection of paperwork. You’ll need space for information for you and each child. Of course, you can use your computer and create files digitally. If you decide to go high-tech, make sure you have a backup of your documents and secure both copies with very strong passwords.
Gather Your Important Personal Info
Start with the easy stuff – names, dates of birth and marriage, social security numbers, etc. Also make copies of important documents such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees, deeds, insurance policies, military service records, as well as computer usernames and passwords. Add any other documents you can think of as well as paperwork requested by your attorney.
There are many people in your life that may need to be contacted in case your estate plan needs to be put in place. Include in your files the following:
- Emergency contacts including names, addresses and phone numbers
- Anyone you want to be involved in your child’s care
- All medical providers and their contact information; make copies of medical records/history that could be important in the case of your absence.
- All insurance information including policy numbers
- All information pertaining to your child’s education should be listed clearly in the file. This includes copies of your child’s IEP (individual education plan) and names of people at the school who work closely with your child.
Include all sources of income, assets and beneficiary information. Copies of account statements are also helpful.
Legal Documents & Associated Individuals
Collect all information including names and phone numbers for your entire advisory team. This includes attorneys, financial advisors, healthcare representatives, beneficiaries, trustees, etc. Also include copies of protective legal documents including power of attorney, health care directive and your will.
Passwords and Associated Accounts
It’s very important to keep a list of all your online accounts, logins and passwords including social media and anything you pay online (bill-pay, etc.) Equally as important, make sure any accounts your child has are also included in this list. Don’t forget to include answers to security questions!
Letter of Intent
As your Estate Planning lawyer will explain in detail, parents of children with disabilities need to have a Letter of Intent in place.
“A letter of intent is so important because no one knows your child like you do,” Mr. Hilsen advises. “If you’re not passing along your child’s likes and needs, it’s possible that the next caregiver will impose their desires instead of your child’s.”
Estate Planning requires thoughtful consideration.
With the help of a sound estate planning attorney/financial advisor, it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. This is a time of reflection…a time to decide what is important to you.
This is your chance to make sure your child is taken care of according to your wishes. You are the only one who can lead this charge and you owe it to yourself and your child to get started today.