Special Needs Families and Estate Planning

Most of us do not realize that there are a substantial number of disabled persons in our communities. Government statistics indicate that possibly 20% of the population suffers from a disability of one sort or another. Not all people with disabilities require accommodation but the numbers are staggering.

Whether your loved one is mentally or physically disabled, planning is essential. Many persons with a disability receive government funding and benefit from programs that may be discontinued if they receive an inheritance directly. Many cannot manage money and will dissipate funds that could be used to enrich their lives. Many need continuing social and financial supports that may be discontinued if the caregiver gets ill or passes away.

Once an individual reaches 18 years old in Pennsylvania he or she is no longer a minor. That means they can make their own decisions regardless of their abilities. Under federal privacy rules medical care providers are prohibited from giving out information to unauthorized individuals. Just because your family doctor continues to listen to you as a parent (even though technically that may be a violation) other medical care providers and financial institutions may not. Without consent, which often may be unavailable due to the disability, the parent or caregiver is often in need of an emergency guardianship at the most inopportune time (i.e. in emergent medical situations). While many public social service agencies suggest against guardianships because it requires an extra step on their part, the appointment of a guardian often puts control where it needs to be, with the family.

Questions to Consider: Is there a proper trust set up? Are there adequate assets or life insurance for their needs? Does a guardian need to be appointed? Is there a decision maker ready to take over?

Planning ahead for the needs of a disabled loved one requires the caregiver and the advisor to consider what will happen if the caregiver can no longer give care.


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Robert Slutsky, Elder Law & Estate Planning Attorney serving Chester County, Pennsylvania would like to send you a free copy of Your Guide For Caregivers to Chester County Senior Resources.

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