Special Needs Estate Planning for Persons with Disabilities, Part One: What Is Special Needs Estate Planning?

Special Needs Estate Planning for Persons with Disabilities, Part One: What Is Special Needs Estate Planning?

Special Needs Estate Planning for Persons with Disabilities, Part One: What Is Special Needs Estate Planning?

Edward V. Wilcenski, Esq., is a founding partner of Wilcenski & Pleat, PLLC, a law firm concentrating its practice on Special Needs Estate Planning and Elder Law, with offices in Clifton Park, New York and Glens Falls, New York. He has presented on estate and future care planning for individuals with disabilities and their families at Transitions. The following series contains material from his presentations. More information can be found at www.wplawny.com.

One of the greatest fears of parents and other caregivers is that they will die without having arranged for the care of a son, daughter, relative or friend with a disability. Most families only have to be concerned about this issue until a child reaches an age when he or she is self-supporting. However, many individuals with disabilities will never be fully capable of self-support, and their parents and caregivers will have to plan for the day when they are not there to provide assistance and oversight.

The type and level of assistance needed vary according to the nature of the disability, the person's age, family circumstances and many other factors. Parents of a minor with a severe developmental disability are often most concerned with identifying a guardian who is willing to undertake the task of providing direct care and oversight. Caregivers dealing with mental illness understand that the illness can bring loneliness and isolation, and they want to ensure that there will always be an advocate willing to step in and assist in a time of crisis. On the other hand, many people with disabilities live very independent lives and need nothing more than some basic assistance in their day-to-day affairs.

No matter what their circumstances, for families of individuals with disabilities, failure to properly plan can cause tremendous hardship for the person with the disability at precisely the time when he or she most needs help: when the primary source of support, often a family member or close friend, is no longer available for companionship, assistance and help. Special Needs Estate Planning is the practice of ensuring that services and support will continue for the life of the person with the disability when the caregivers are no longer able to help.

Return to this blog next week for Mr. Wilcenski’s advice on how to start the process of Special Needs Estate Planning.