Estate planning is a much more complex and challenging process when you have a family member with special needs to consider. Parents who have special needs children and those who serve as a guardian for a vulnerable adult will have more concerns to address in their estate plans than the average individual considering their golden years.
For example, you have to think about how to provide financial support for your loved one without depriving them of crucial resources, such as certain state benefits. A special needs trust is a useful tool for those who want to provide support for a loved one without giving them direct access to financial resources.
You and possibly your spouse may serve as trustees now, meaning that you have access to and control over those resources. How do you decide who else to name as a special needs trustee?
Consider someone’s personality carefully
Just because an individual is typically responsible and upright does not necessarily mean they will be the best choice to serve as your special needs trustee. They will need patience, the ability to pay attention to detail and excellent organizational skills. Beyond that, you need to trust them implicitly, as they could be in a position to misuse those resources for personal gain or to otherwise engage in the financial abuse of the very person you hope to protect.
Their role is not just one of financial management but also as a form of decision-making support for the beneficiary of the trust, as they may play a role in choices such as what medical facility or educational institution provides support for the beneficiary. The willingness of the other party to fulfill those obligations is also a key consideration when making your selection.
Co-trustees and professional trustees could be an option
You may be in a situation where there is no one person that you absolutely trust to provide guidance and financial oversight for your vulnerable loved one. In such a scenario, naming two people as co-trustees could be a good solution. The presence of a second trustee can limit the possibility of one person abusing their role or misusing resources.
A professional trustee could also be an option if you don’t have family members or others you trust to assume that role. Professional fiduciaries can provide more than a single lifetime of support, which is another reason they can be a good option.
Paying careful attention to detail when selecting a special needs trustee will be crucial for providing adequate protection for the beneficiary of that trust.