Special Plans for Disabled Children: Estate Planning for Families with Children with Special Needs

Brian1.jpgEvery family has its own unique set of needs and goals with relation to estate planning, and every family needs a plan. But in few cases is the need for doing careful, detailed advance planning greater than with families who have children with special needs. Due to both their needs, and the nature of government assistance benefits, the right kind of planning is essential to maximizing the special-needs child’s long-term well-being.

A recent article in the Green Bay Press Gazette tells the story of several families who have children with special needs. One of these families is the Larsens, who have two sons, Alex and Matthew, who have a rare condition known as Prader-Willi syndrome. Matthew has an average level of functionality for someone with the syndrome, which is typically means an IQ of around 70. Alex is higher functioning.

Fortunately for Alex and Matthew, their parents wisely engaged several aspects of advance planning for their sons. In 2005, the Larsens created wills that include supplemental needs trust provisions. These trusts can be essential for children with special needs. In many situations involving children with special needs, the child receives government assistance benefits from programs which are need-based. These benefits are especially vital for children like Matthew Larsen, who cannot live alone and who, once he leaves his parents’ home, will live in a group home.


If the child’s parents leave an inheritance in the child’s own name, that inheritance likely will disqualify the child to continue receiving the funds and/or services upon which they have come to rely. For instance, leaving your special-needs child an inheritance of just $10,000 would leave that child ineligible to receive Medicaid or SSI benefits.

With a supplemental needs trust, though, the inheritance goes not to the child in his/her own name, but to a trust operating for the benefit of that child with special needs, and does not affect the child’s eligibility for receiving benefits. The trust is managed by a trustee the parents can name in their legal documents. Parents can set up their supplemental needs trust provisions in either their wills or living trusts. The trust funds can go to such needed items as personal care assistants, out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses, education, recreation and physical rehabilitation.

Additionally, parents also need to ensure that their estate plans name a guardian to care for their children with special needs once the parents pass away or are unable to care for the children themselves. The guardian you name for your children can be the same person as the trustee of the children’s supplemental needs trust, or can be a different person.

For families like the Larsens, detailed estate planning is a must to ensure the best care for their sons. To ensure that you have a plan in place to give you peace of mind and your children the benefit of your life’s hard work, contact Madison estate planning attorney Daniel J. Krause of Krause Law Offices LLC. He can help you craft a plan to protect your children with special needs. Contact Attorney Daniel J. Krause today.

Reach us through our website or call our office at (608) 268-5751 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation.

More blogs:

Focus on Minor Children: An Estate Plan Can Keep them Sheltered (and send them to college), Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, Oct. 11, 2013
Many Wisconsin Estate Plans Can Benefit from Using Both a Will and a Trust, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, April 25, 2012
Fair and Equal Inheritance for Your Children, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, Feb. 27, 2013
Photo credit: Jennifer1982 at Wikimedia Commons.