National Special Needs Law Month, designated by The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys every October, helps bring awareness and education to issues that people with disabilities and their families face. While estate planning is crucial for all individuals, it is especially important for those with special needs and disabilities and their loved ones. Leaving money to a loved one who is disabled or has special needs presents unique considerations to ensure that the individual continues to receive the healthcare and other support and resources they need in their lives.
If you have a loved one with special needs or a disability who receives needs-based government benefits, it’s necessary to consider the impact of any inheritance they may receive. Government benefits often require recipients to stay below a specified asset limit. If they receive an inheritance from a loved one, they may go over that asset limit and could lose their government benefits, which may provide crucial services for their health and well-being. However, that does not mean you have to disinherit them or that the person receiving government benefits is out of options; the law provides other options for estate planning with special needs considerations.
Meeting with an Elder Law attorney can be valuable to learn how estate planning interacts with things like supplemental needs trusts, Medical Assistance, and other government benefits. An Elder Law attorney can discuss with you the various ways to set up your estate plan given these factors, along with the pros and cons of options like a Wispact trust, an ABLE account, a private special needs trust, and more.
Furthermore, deciding who should manage the finances of a loved one with special needs is an important consideration. This person, or company, will be responsible for managing and distributing the individual’s assets and ensuring that they are used to provide for their ongoing care and support.
Educating yourself on different special needs planning options and how they interact with your estate plan is a great first step to taking care of yourself and your loved ones. Attorneys Reg Wydeven, Jon Fischer, and Ali Ratajczak are all members of the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys if you’d like to make an appointment to discuss your needs further.