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Estate plans are essential for parents of children with disabilities

Parenting requires complex multitasking: an ability to work in the present while looking at the big picture ahead. Whether changing diapers, coordinating extracurricular activities, saving for college or helping a special needs child navigate the educational system, a parent needs to be thinking about the long-term welfare of their children at the same time they meet daily needs.

One thing that all parents should consider is an estate plan to care for their children after they're gone. When a family member has intellectual or developmental disabilities, an estate plan can be a vital resource to make sure that everyone is provided for in the best way possible.

Many families lack an official plan

When it comes to estate plans, a recent study finds that most parents of special needs children have thought about the long-term care needs their children require but, nearly half of the time, they don't create formal plans. People with disabilities may end up in institutional care without a legally recognized plan.

The study points to several reasons why parents don't have an active plan in place, including:

  • Difficulty discussing the topic with family members
  • Financial challenges
  • A lack of local disability resources
  • A lack of information about care plans

Finding the right fit for you

While emotional and financial challenges are valid concerns, careful planning and dedication can help overcome those obstacles. It's difficult to imagine asking a child to care for his or her sibling, but imagine them being thrust into the situation without warning. More importantly, many families want to avoid any institutional overreach. An estate plan can avoid this scenario by picking attentive and vetted caregivers instead of a state employee.

A major detail from the study is that parents lack access to information and resources. The law may feel complex and overwhelming, but there is great flexibility to meet the needs of a particular family. A special needs trust, for example, is a common structure that provides financial backing and care giving instructions for a child's life. Other documents can plan for necessary medical, monetary and other needs. An estate planning attorney will be able to explain the many benefits of creating a formal plan and will be able to advise on the best approach for your individual circumstances.

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