handing over a legal paper to lawyer
Diya Patel

Where to Start With Special Needs Estate Planning

Being a parent comes with many challenges. Certainly, one of the most emotionally fraught challenges is thinking about what will happen to your child after you pass. Often, parents put off dealing with estate planning because they do not want to think about their passing or the process looks daunting. Creating a plan for your child after you pass becomes more important when your child has special needs. The choices that you make or do not make can have a lasting impact on your child and his ability to receive benefits after you are gone. 

Over the next few weeks, we will walk you through the steps necessary to create a plan. This week we will tackle how to get organized. In the following weeks, we will dig deeper into finding an attorney that specializes in special needs planning and working with that attorney to create a plan.

Note that we are not attorneys and this does not take the place of advice from a trusted and experienced special needs attorney.

Here is what we recommend:

  1. Create a Filing System. The first step is to decide what type of system works best for you. Since this will hold all of your and your child’s personal information, you should be mindful of security. Your system can be online or in a traditional file folder. If you prefer a digital solution, you can store the files on your computer or with an online cloud. Make sure to do your research before deciding which program is best for you. We use dropbox for its security, but it is a costly solution. If you decide on an accordion file or another paper filing system, think about investing in a safe. Create a folder each for yourself, your spouse or partner, and each child. 
  2. Create a Series of Documents in Your Files. Make a document each for yourself, your spouse or partner, and each child. 
  3. Personal Information. This should include names, nicknames, birthdates, places of birth, social security numbers, and addresses.
  4. Emergency Contacts. Include information for your spouse/partner, children, siblings, and parents and the name of the person that you want to care for your child in case of an emergency. 
  5. Medical History and Health Insurance. Make a list of all medical providers, medical history, and health insurance information. Include in this list the names and numbers of primary care providers, specialists, medications, allergies, insurance companies, policy numbers, and Medicaid and Medicare information. 
  6. Education Information. It is worthwhile to include information about your child’s IEP if your child is in school. This should include the name of his school counselor or teacher. 
  7. Personal Financial Information. Document each source and amount of income (employment, social security, SSI, etc.). List each asset and the value. Include the names of any advisors. List all recurring bills. For your child, include information for his representative payee accounts and special needs trust accounts if you have them.
  8. Attorney Information. List the information for attorneys that you work with as well as any beneficiaries, trustees, guardians, etc. that are listed in your legal documents. 
  9. Logins and Passwords. List account logins and passwords for all online accounts including those that your child uses (this includes email, banks, insurance, social media, cloud storage, etc.). Include the answers to security questions. Of course, it is important to keep this information safe as it is highly personal but tell a trusted person where it is and how to access it.
  10. Documents to Collect and File for Each Family Member. In addition to the documents that you created above, include in your files birth certificates, social security cards, marriage licenses, spouse’s death certificates, deeds, automobiles titles, divorce decrees, insurance policies, stock certificates, military service records, most recent tax returns, and any prepaid burial plot receipts. In addition, include copies of statements for your child’s social security accounts and special needs trust accounts. Legal documents such as your will, durable power of attorney, advanced health care directives, etc are also important to include. 

The next step is to find an attorney! Click here for our tips.

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