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Thirteen Estate Planning Tips for Beneficiaries with Special Needs


Life is more complicated for families who have a loved one with a disability. From finding the right medical professionals and the right schools or other programs, to obtaining necessary therapies and services, individuals with disabilities face additional steps, extra time and a need for specialized knowledge at every stage of life. In addition to facing these stresses, families may receive misinformation, which makes decision making more difficult.

Planning for Beneficiaries with Special Needs

While the development of an estate plan can be difficult for any family, for a family of an individual with a disability, the planning, as with all things, has added complexity. Primary caretakers of a loved one with a disability routinely wonder who’ll care for, love and financially support their family member when they’re gone. They ask themselves questions like the following:

  • Where will my loved one live?
  • Who will make sure my loved one is happy and well cared for?
  • What services will be available for my loved one?
  • How will these services be paid for?

Needless to say, it’s recommended that all families engage with an estate-planning attorney, but for families with a loved one with special needs, the process of developing an estate plan requires more than document drafting skills. It also requires the ability to navigate the confusing and often counter-intuitive rules of government benefit eligibility and being intimately familiar with the circle of doctors, diagnoses, therapies and services that will be available to provide special needs support over the course of a lifetime.

If your client’s family includes an individual with special needs, here are 13 tips to get him started on the right track to developing an estate plan that works for his family:

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