Planning for life after the parents of a Special Needs child pass away, must include ensuring that the individual retains their eligibility for government assistance. This requires an experienced estate attorney who is familiar with government program requirements, ABLE accounts and retirement planning.
Morningstar’s recent article, “Retirement Planning for Special-Needs Families,” explains that the need is growing. One in every five Americans has a disability, and 20 million families have at least one family member who has a disability, says the National Disability Institute. The costs can also be extremely high, with the lifetime cost of caring for a person with autism ranging from $1.4 million to $2.4 million, according to an advocacy and research group. Lifetime costs are similar for people affected by other severe impairments.
While government benefit programs provide some assistance, the eligibility rules vary depending on when a disability is incurred. There’s a set of rules for people disabled as children (prior to age 22) and another for those disabled at older ages. Here some key topics for consideration and action:
- The care plan should include the safety of the child, along with aspects of life fulfillment, including work, learning and play.
- Projected cash flow needs will depend on the type of disability, capability of the individual needing care and the level of care needed.
- Investment allocations. Families who have a child with special-needs should be more conservative in how they allocate their retirement portfolios, and maintain a higher level of cash.
- Government benefits include Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
- Families need to understand all of the government rules on asset and income limits for a person with disabilities.
- A Special Needs Trust is a critical part of a family retirement plan.
- Beneficiary designations must be structured properly, because inheritances can jeopardize government benefits eligibility.
Parents are advised to create a document that offers details of the specific needs and wants of the family member, so that his or her guardian will have as much information as possible when the parents are no longer present. Everyone in the family needs to be educated and prepared. A special needs attorney will be able to guide the family through the planning process.
Reference: Morningstar (January 17, 2017) “Retirement Planning for Special-Needs Families”