Wills, Trusts, and Estates for Parents of Children with Disabilities in New Jersey
Planning for the future is an important part of anyone’s responsibilities. When you have a child with a disability that task becomes more imperative. This planning is not something that can be postponed until some future time. Things happen, often without warning, that may leave you and your child in immediate risk. Death, injury, or illness can have a severe impact on you and your child to care for yourselves. Consequently, you should begin the planning process while you are clear-minded. Reading this article is an indication that you are beginning the process now.
What are the purposes of this preparation?
You want to distribute your assets according to your plans and wishes; minimize the possibility of any family disputes; ensure that any taxes on your assets are minimized; avoid legal entanglements of Probate or Estate administration; and many other things which will be explained as you go forward.
The process of planning must be well-organized.
- Gathering of information. You will need this information for your plan and after your plan is adopted. Keep the data in one place, such as a folder or drawer. Also, if put it in a file on your computer;
- Types of information. You and your child’s birth certificates, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicare information, insurance policies, deeds, bank and investment account information, military service records, and any other documents that pertain to your assets.
- Emergency contact information. This should contain names and contact information for you, your spouse or partner, your children, your parents and and siblings, any other trusted individuals who are important to you and your affairs. Your child’s school contact people should be included, as well as someone you wish to care for your disabled child in your absence.
- Medical providers. You should have contact information for your family’s medical and pharmaceutical and therapeutic services. It should contain all medications being taken. As stated above and re-stated here, you should include all of your insurances (life and health), Medicare and Medicare services to which your entitled, or may be entitled, and any other documents that deal with future occurrences.
- School information. You should have a copy of your child’s school records, counselors, and his or her Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
- Financial information. You should have information on your financial status including your bank accounts and sources of income, such as: employment, retirement benefits and income, Social Security, investments, etc. a copy of your recent tax returns should be available. You should also include a copy of a Special Needs Trust for your child with a disability, your will, and any other means of income he or she receives. Many of these will be included in the next area of legal information.
- Lawyers and legal documents. Your file of information should include the names and contact information of any attorneys, trustees, and personal representatives, and your power of attorney.
- Your intentions. You should prepare a document indicating your intentions for ensuring your child’s comfort and welfare, even when you are no longer available.
- Meet with a special needs attorney. Unless you are totally knowledgeable of the legal intricacies involved in these matters, the attorney will assist you in the compilation of all of the above. Further, he or she will help you formulate strategies (such as trusts, including Special Needs Trust, Social Security and Social Security Income (SSI) benefits) to ensure that your child is availed of the things to maintain a comfortable and quality life style when you are gone. Further, your attorney will assist in planning your estate so that your finances and well-being are properly managed if you are no longer able to manage them yourself. He or she also assists you in preparing a power of attorney. This is a document that designates someone to manage your financial matters in the manner you desire. It is important that it is a durable power of attorney to ensure that it will continue to be effective if and when you lose your capacity to function normally. Further, when your child becomes 18 years of age, he or she should also execute a power of attorney to manage his or her financial matters. In addition to these, the lawyer will assist you in preparing for your child’s health care and prepare a health care directive for you and your child.
Guardianship, Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning When Your Child Has Special Needs
- Guardianship. Your lawyer will assist you in determining who should serve as your child’s guardian if you are unable to do so, and the steps they must take to be so recognized by the court.
- Last Will and Testament. This document enables you to stipulate the distribution of your estate when you are gone. In it, you determine: (1) who receives what; (2) when they receive it; and in what manner he or she receives it. Further, you determine: (1) who will manage your estate; (2) who will manage the trusts from your Will and Testament; and (3) who will serve as your child’s guardian. Absent a Last Will and Testament, the State of New Jersey makes these determinations (laws of intestate. Also, the Surrogate’s Court will determine the guardian of your minor child. In brief, every one, 18 years or older, male or female, should have a Will, regardless of the net worth of your assets.
- Trusts. Basically, there are two types of trusts: a revocable living trust, which is established during your lifetime, and a testamentary trust, which is set up in your Will, and takes effect after your death. Each of these trusts have specific traits. When you die, if there are assets which were not placed into a revocable living trust, those assets will be subject to the probate process. This will involve court time and costs. Further, it exposes your personal information to the public. While these are the two basic types of trusts, there many others that apply to unusual and complicated situations. Your attorney will assist you in determining if any of these apply to your particular situation.
- Estate Litigation. Many litigious situations may arise if you should die without having made a Will. In New Jersey, these can be: (1) contested Wills, (2) probate disputes, (3) inheritance disputes, and (4) trust disputes.
- Funeral Arrangements. To avoid conflict, anxiety, and family disagreements, your funeral arrangements should be written and provided to your agent. This would also include any organ transfers you wish to be made upon your death.
Many of the things discussed in this article can be easy or complex. Advise the affected people in your estate plan how to access the information compiled in all of the previous areas.
Learn About More of Our Special Needs Legal Services
- Special Needs Trusts
- Guardianship of Disabled Adult Children in New Jersey
- Guardianship of Disabled Persons in New Jersey
- Estate Planning for Parents of Children with Special Needs.