While it is smart for any adult to have an estate plan in place, it is even more critical that you have one if you have a dependent child with special needs. When leaving assets behind for your child, you must consider certain elements unique to your situation. You may also have to make plans for your child that extend well into his or her adulthood, and possibly, the rest of your child’s life.

The first step in estate planning for your special needs child might involve sitting your family down for an important conversation about your estate planning goals and objectives. During this conversation, consider discussing the following:

  1. Establishing trusts

Trusts often help those with specific estate planning objectives accomplish them. A special needs trust is a tool that allows you to leave your child assets without worrying about how this might impact his or her eligibility for government benefits.

Many individuals with disabilities use government help, such as Medicaid or Social Security Disability Insurance, to support themselves. Many such programs require recipients to meet certain income requirements before receiving them.

If you die and leave an inheritance behind in a regular will, it could mean that your child has too much money available to qualify for critical benefits. Leaving wealth behind in a special needs trust eliminates this concern because those assets become the property of the trustee and not your son or daughter.

  1. Establishing guardianships

Depending on your child’s disability, he or she may need life-long care. When estate planning, you have the option of choosing who you want to provide care for your son or daughter when you are unable to do so.

While these are two important steps in estate planning for a special needs child, there are other matters you may also wish to address. You may be able to summarize your thoughts and wishes for your child with a disability by drafting a thorough care plan.