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Special needs trusts, pt 1: realizing your child needs extra care

For a parent or grandparent, the realization that your child or grandchild has special needs can be difficult to accept.

When you’re able to look ahead, however, you may see great uncertainty about your child’s ability to be able to live on their own, without special care and support.

Here are some questions to ask as make plans for the future with your child’s best interests in mind.

Is grief from the shock of a diagnosis making it hard for you to focus on what comes next?

If so, that is totally understandable. It’s a deeply human response, to first grieve the child you thought you had so that you can fully love the one you do have.

Talk with a therapist or counselor, if necessary, so that you can let go of any denial you may have about what your child’s condition really is.

Is the diagnosis correct?

Doctors and mental health professionals can be very helpful, even the very best practitioners of the healing arts are not infallible.

Mental health disorders can be especially difficult to diagnose. If a doctor has diagnosed your kid with bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder or some other disability, it makes sense to do enough due diligence to confirm the diagnosis.

To be sure, even when it’s confirmed, a diagnosis does not provide all the answers. But it can open up opportunities to identify resources to help your kid.

Will your child need an individual education plan (IEP)?

Mainstream society tends to overlook this, but the number of children who already receive special education services in the U.S. is an astounding 6.6 million. That is 13 percent of all students who attend public schools.

It could be, however, that the number should be even higher. For financial reasons, many school districts are reluctant to consider an IEP unless forced to do so.

You will likely need to have difficult conversations with your child’s school officials and your health care professionals to determine the right course of action.

Will you need a special needs trust or other changes to your estate plan?

In part two of this post, we will discuss estate planning for a child with special needs. Depending on your family’s unique circumstances, there are many factors that can be affected.

For example, you may need to consider creating a guardianship for your child. And if you create a special needs trust, you will want to consider how to take account of Medicaid. Supplemental Security Income or other government benefits related to disability.

 

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