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Estate planning for parents of children with special needs

Florida parents whose children have special needs should take steps to protect those children in their estate plan. Having a child with special needs does not change everything about an estate plan. Parents will still need to consider whether they need documents that will protect them in case they become incapacitated along with a will or a trust.

However, when one of their children has special needs, it is important to arrange the estate in a way that does not make the child ineligible for government assistance. This may involve setting up a special needs trust. If the child has siblings, parents may want to consider what role those siblings may play in the life of their special needs child as they get older and after the parents have died. Parents may decide to appoint a different person as guardian from the one who handles financial matters.

When preparing the trust, parents should think about their assets, their values and what they hope to pass on. For some people, the trust is primarily a financial document. Others approach it by writing long letters that address emotional issues and what they hope for their children's lives. Parents should consider who they would want, besides one another, to make important decisions and should review the estate plan regularly.

There are a few errors that people sometimes make when creating a trust that should be avoided. One is failing to fund it. Assets must be placed in the trust after its creation. Another is that beneficiary designations may override trusts. Therefore, these documents should be consistent. If the trust is a particularly complex one, a family member may lack the needed financial expertise to manage it. A professional might be appointed as a co-trustee in this case.

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