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7 Tips for California Special Needs Estate Planning

7 Tips For California Special Needs Estate Planning

Preparing for the future is particularly important when you care for a loved one with special needs. Their future care after you pass away or are no longer able to personally meet their needs requires careful forethought and advance planning. Many factors should be considered and a California Estate Planning Attorney from The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo in Woodland Hills can help. Here are seven tips for California Special Needs Estate Planning you should consider.

1.   Prepare a Letter of Intent

A letter of intent, although not a legal document, is central to any special needs estate plan. In it, you can distill your experience of caring for your special needs loved one into one vital document for future caregivers. This allows you to effectively impact and even guide the decision-making and care for your loved one after you are gone. This is where you want to record:

  • Your loved one’s daily routine, likes, and dislikes
  • The best ways to communicate with the child
  • How to manage your loved one’s unique behaviors
  • Potential problem areas
  • Names and contact information for teachers, aides, social service providers, and other care providers
  • Medical information including names and contact information for doctors and therapists, lists of medications, and the location of prescriptions and pharmacy
  • Health insurance coverage information

2.   Be Wise About Asset Allocations

There is no law or requirement that demands you divide your estate equally among your children or other beneficiaries. The purpose of an estate plan is to record your wishes for how your estate is to be managed, and that should include a wise allocation of your assets. Emotions may dictate that you divide your estate equally, but more rational considerations may cause you to leave a greater portion of assets to caring for your special needs loved one. Their ongoing or future care may need substantial funding, while your more self-sufficient loved ones can easily accept less.

3.   Plan Ahead for Government Benefits

Loved ones with a qualifying disability maybe eligible to receive benefits from Medi-Cal, Social Security Income (SSI), or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Wise advance planning with a CA Estate Planning Attorney is essential to be sure the asset allocations for your special needs loved one does not run afoul of these programs’ income limitations. These public benefit programs will rarely meet all your loved one’s needs, so it is vital to arrange future care funding to supplement public benefits without harming their program eligibility.

4.   Get Help with California Special Needs Trusts

A California special needs trust is a great option for funding your loved one’s ongoing care and other needs, but there are different types. Care must also be taken to ensure the trust income doesn’t compromise public benefit asset limitations. A skilled Estate Planning Attorney can help you structure any special needs trust to protect trust assets, comply with state and federal laws, not violate Med-Cal or Social Security benefit asset limits, and provide the greatest long-term benefits to your loved one.

5.   Choose Trustees With Care

When you establish a special needs trust for your loved one, consider carefully whom you choose as the trustee. This person will be solely responsible for managing the trust and its allocations to your special needs child or family member. Siblings or other family members may sometimes be the best choice – unless they are future beneficiaries of the trust. You may also want to consider:

  • Choosing an attorney or bank official as trustee or co-trustee
  • Granting authority to the trustee to delegate certain tasks to a professional
  • Appointing a trust protector who can remove a trustee who acts in self-interest

6.   Coordinate Your Special Needs Estate Planning with Others

It is not uncommon for other family members to include your special needs loved one in their own estate planning. These plans should be coordinated to not violate public benefit asset limitations or duplicate care funding. You may want to invite other family members to allocate resources to your special needs trust to save them the expenses and promote efficiency. An experienced Estate Planning Attorney from Salvo Law can help you accomplish this.

7.   Your Special Needs Loved One May Need Their Own Estate Plan

This will depend on your loved one’s capacity, but they may need their own basic estate planning documents, such as a will, general power of attorney, healthcare directive, HIPAA release, and more. You may also want to consider a self-settled special needs trust for your loved one’s own assets.

Contact Salvo Law today for more guidance with special needs estate planning in California.