Estate planning concerns for families with special needs in California

It no longer seems as if "nuclear families" exist anymore. With the advancements in medical care, many Americans are living longer- sometimes outliving two or three spouses - and need medical care well past retirement. As the economy continues on its rollercoaster ride, more extended family members are living together, pooling their financial resources in order to make ends meet. Many marriages end in divorce, fewer couples are getting married than they did in past generations and many Californians are part of blended families.

Due to these factors, estate planning has become more convoluted than ever before. Previously, for many, choosing whom to give their assets to was as simple as deciding who they wanted to come to Thanksgiving dinner. Now, many family trees are a little more tangled with numerous remarriages, stepchildren, ex-step-grandchildren and former nieces and nephews branching off the truck of every tree.

Californians must be intentional about whom they wish to provide for after they are gone. Failure to create a will or other estate planning documents can leave a legal mess for those left behind. Providing for your heirs can be even more difficult when a family member suffers from a disability or has special needs.

Providing for those with special needs

Whether you have a spouse who needs extended nursing care, a sibling with a long-term illness or a child with disabilities, providing for those with special needs requires special planning. Understand the options available so you can make good choices for those you love.

  • Set your intentions: Determine what your goals are with your intended plan. Will you be the primary provider for that family member? Will an inheritance compromise their eligibility for government benefits? Are there other children or family members whom you intend to provide for as well? How will you equitably divide your assets when your children have different needs?
  • Set up a trust: California law allows for the creation of special needs trusts. These trusts can be tailored to fit your circumstances and the specific needs of your loved one, providing you with peace of mind in the process. However, wading through the medical insurance, governmental compliance and other red tape issues can be confusing. If not done properly, your estate plan may not accomplish what you need it to.

A lawyer can help

If you do not have an estate plan or have not recently updated your estate plan, consult an experienced California attorney. A lawyer knowledgeable about estate planning needs for Medi-cal eligibility requirements, probate and trust administration and special needs of family members can help you establish a plan that fits your needs and desires.