Special Needs Planning Preserving Legacies, Securing Futures: Your Trusted Estate Planning Partner

Comprehensive Special Needs Trust Planning

Some parents choose to leave a disabled child out of their estate plans when they learn that leaving them inheritances could result in their losing benefits. This scenario typically results in the bulk of assets instead being left for siblings or other family members with the expectation that they find a way to care for their special needs loved one. While it is true that you avoid leaving direct inheritances to those receiving disability benefits, there are effective means of caring for your loved one through your estate plan without jeopardizing their program eligibility.

Special needs trusts can facilitate the support that your loved one will need in addition to public disability benefits. Families of a loved one with special needs can place an unlimited number of assets into a third-party special needs trust that works to cover the needs and expenses beyond what government benefits can accommodate. First-party special needs trusts can also be used to collect any inheritances or settlements that the loved one with special needs.

SSI and other programs have rule exceptions that specifically allow these types of special needs trusts. We can work with your family to determine what type of support your loved one requires and make recommendations about what special needs trusts can safely support their care.

Establishing Guardianship for Special Needs Adults

Typically, when a child becomes a legal adult by turning 18, they assume full responsibility over the decisions governing their life. This includes making choices about where to live and how to make a living. Adults with special needs may not have the physical or mental competency to adequately make these decisions. In these situations, a guardianship may be necessary.

Guardianships come in two forms. A guardian of the person has responsibility over an individual’s health, safety, and general wellbeing. This includes the ability to make decisions about a person’s medical care, food, and housing. A guardian of the property handles financial affairs, including the management of any property or assets, including government benefits.

In many cases, a person granted a guardianship for a loved one with special needs serves as both a guardian of the person and a guardian of the property. They have a responsibility to take care of the person on a day-to-day basis as well as manage their financial security.

Obtaining a guardianship through a court can be a challenging process, in part due to the amount of authority that is conferred. The court will need to be convinced that the individual with special needs cannot adequately manage their affairs without outside assistance. Courts also generally prefer that only close family members, like a parent or sibling, serve as a guardian in these situations.

Our team can help assess whether a guardianship makes sense for your situation and strategize on the most effective means of pursuing the designation from the appropriate court. We understand how these types of cases are adjudicated and will do everything possible to get you the legal authority that you need to help your loved one.

(919) 975-5359 or contact us online to get started.

Commonly Asked Questions

What is the difference between a first-party and a third-party special needs trust?

A first-party special needs trust is funded with the disabled individual's own assets, such as an inheritance or personal injury settlement. A third-party special needs trust is funded with assets belonging to someone other than the disabled person, such as parents or other family members.

How can I determine if my loved one with special needs requires a guardianship?

If your loved one lacks the mental or physical capacity to make important decisions about their health, safety, living arrangements, or financial matters, a guardianship may be necessary. It is important to assess their individual needs and consult with legal professionals to determine the best course of action.

What is involved in establishing guardianship for a special needs adult?

Establishing guardianship for a special needs adult involves petitioning the court, providing evidence of the individual's incapacity, and demonstrating the need for a guardian to make decisions on their behalf. The process can be complex, and it is advisable to seek legal guidance to navigate the requirements effectively.

Special Needs Support that You Can Count On

At Oak City Estate Planning, we are compassionate to the needs of those with special needs and their families. We understand the inevitable stress that comes with worrying about the future of your loved one who is unable to care for themselves. Our team is ready to give you the peace of mind you and they deserve. Our Raleigh special needs planning lawyer can help you explore the entirety of your options when looking to protect the financial security of your loved one.

    “Thank you for giving me great peace of mind!”
    My husband (46 years old) died suddenly in his sleep without warning. I was 6 months pregnant and had a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. Planning for our deaths was not a seemingly urgent thing to do in our life phase. Once we became parents we knew how important it was to have a will and a trust so that our plans and hopes for our children could be fulfilled. But, as things often do, stopping for a moment to get this done just didn't happen. It was so much easier to keep kicking the can down the road and letting our future selves worry about that issue.

    In the grief of losing my husband, children's father, and family's provider there was also so much administrative burden to handle. Had we already had our will and our assets can figured as they should have been, so much fear, anxiety, and confusion could have been avoided.

    Right after my husband's death, I contacted Lars and he helped me create a trust, will, and healthcare directive -- I wanted to have this in place before the birth of my third child. It gave me incredible piece of mind to know that my children would be provided for in the manner I would want it to be, as well as knowing I would eliminate my family from unnecessary administrative and financial burdens. And amazingly, it did not take more than a few hours of time!

    I highly recommend everyone have a will, but particularly anyone with children or loved ones that will need care should you die. I learned the hard way that you don't plan ahead for the The things that are likely to happen, but for the things that may happen. Thank you Lars for giving me great peace of mind!
    - C.A.
    “Lars is great!”
    Lars is great! He walked us through the process and made sure that we understood each step. He helped create new categories in the planning process that will ensure we provide our family a detailed outline of our wishes. Highly recommend him to anyone looking to start or continue their estate planning journey.
    - W.S
    “Lars is great!”
    My wife and I found working with Lars Kissling to be a productive and enlightening experience. His knowledge of estate planning is extensive. He patiently answered our questions and showed both concern and compassion about our own situation. We recommend Oak City Estate Planning. It is truly an investment in your family's future. I think Lars' services are needed by all, especially for families with small children or those with special needs. The end result is piece of mind going forward.
    - B.B
    “We would highly recommend Lars Kissling to others.”

    My husband and I were very satisfied with the professional advice from Lars. He recently assisted us in updating our estate plan. He led us through a process that provided clarity on our goals for our plan. We would highly recommend Lars Kissling to others.

    - B.K.
    “I am extremely happy with all that Lars has done for me.”
    “He was a great help to me and was very patient to explain all my options, many of which I did not know I had. He also helped me find financial planners which I desperately needed.”
    - Mary M.
    “Lars was very professional and thorough.”
    “The process was easy and we now have a robust estate plan that covers any and all eventualities, protecting both ourselves and our beneficiaries. We highly recommend Lars at Oak City Estate Planning, having done so with friends and colleagues.”
    - Phil B.

Our Simple 4-Step Process

  • 1
    After signing up for a vision meeting, you will watch a video that provides an overview of estate planning.
  • 2
    During this meeting, you will meet with Mr. Kissling and discuss your case and specific planning needs.
  • 3
    The second meeting with the attorney involves sitting with Mr. Kissling and actually putting your plan together.
  • 4
    In the third and final meeting, you will review the plan, tie up any loose ends, and sign your finalized plan.

Applying for Essential Government Benefits

Proving that your loved one qualifies for disability benefits can be a protracted and frustrating process filled with bureaucratic roadblocks. Since your loved one often cannot complete the application themselves, a family member will need to help them move through the process.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal government program that extends benefits to disabled individuals with low incomes. Your loved one with special needs will presumably be “low income” by default if they are unable to work. You will also need to prove that your loved one’s condition qualifies as an eligible disability.

The SSI application process can be extremely confusing. Stalled and rejected applications can be common, and in these situations, you may need experienced legal assistance in mounting an effective appeal and review. Our Raleigh special needs attorney can guide you and your loved one through the application process and can work to resolve any obstacles that you might encounter to receiving your benefits.

The contradictory reality is that public disability benefits rarely provide enough for an individual to live on, meaning additional support will be necessary. However, it is important to understand that qualifying for SSI and other programs means not exceeding certain income or asset valuation thresholds. This means that directly supporting your loved one with special needs, either through direct financial payments or the providing of assets, can result in their ineligibility and loss of benefits. As a result, targeted estate planning tools are required to avoid endangering government disability support.

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