Archive for November, 2010
3 COSTLY MISTAKES MADE BY FAMILIES WITH SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN
As a Jacksonville, Florida special needs lawyer, I realize disabled and special needs children have unique planning needs. Unfortunately there are many misconceptions when it comes to securing the financial future your child deserves. Even well-meaning caregivers and service organizations don’t always understand legal issues and can give bad advice. It is really critical for these families to fully understand their options because these misconceptions can result in costly mistakes. Below are just a few.
COSTLY MISTAKE #1: Procrastination. It is critical that all parents with minor children do estate planning. You just never know when you might become incapacitated or die. But, it is even more critical that parents of special needs kids plan early. That is because a child without special needs will be able to work and provide for their own financial well-being when they become adults. However your special needs child may never be able to do that. Plan early because your failure to properly plan for there can never be undone.
COSTLY MISTAKE #2: Disinheriting your child to preserve government benefits. Many children and adults with special needs rely on government benefits such as SSI and Medicaid for their basic needs (including health insurance). There are some well meaning people and attorneys who would suggest that you disinherit your child to protect his or her benefits. But government benefits provide only enough to secure food, clothing and shelter. So what happens after you become incapacitated or pass away? Will your child be able to maintain the life that you have so carefully crafted for them? Probably not.
If your child is likely to require government assistance to meet his or her basic needs, you should consider establishing a Special Needs Trust. If done properly, a Special Needs Trust can protect your child’s public benefits and help them maintain their lifestyle even after you are no longer there to support them.
COSTLY MISTAKE #3: Creating a “do-it-yourself” or generic special needs trust. Special Needs Trusts should be created by a lawyer who has expertise in this area of the law. That is because special needs trusts are subject to both federal and state laws and the laws of each state can vary. It may be possible to create a do-it-yourself or generic “form” trust that can protect your child’s government benefits, but most likely they are not designed to meet your child’s particular needs. It is critical to design a trust that will ensure that your child’s specific requirements are considered. For example, your child may require, or greatly benefit from, special group programs, individualized physical therapy, or other things that a generic trust simply doesn’t address.
A properly drafted and funded Special Needs Trust can ensure that your child has sufficient assets to care for them in the way you plan throughout their lifetime. But be sure to see an experienced special needs attorney at the Cramer Law Center and don’t rely on what others may be telling you.
Thanksgiving: A Time for More than “Talking Turkey”
In 1621, Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. This is generally acknowledged as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies (although Native American groups are believed to have organized harvest festivals and other celebrations of thanks centuries before the arrival of Europeans). And while days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states in the years that followed, it was not until 1863 that President Lincoln formally proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be held on the last Thursday in November.
For many Americans today, Thanksgiving is a time to put aside worries about work and calories, try to make the best of having to watch the Detroit Lions attempt yet again to play professional football, and focus on what matters most in life: FAMILY.
At Cramer Law Center, P.L., we would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving. And, because we are estate planning attorneys who care about you and your family, we can’t help but use this opportunity to remind you of something important: Thanksgiving, with the family gathered round, is an ideal time for everyone to talk with each other about their healthcare wishes. We know that having this conversation may be difficult, but it is truly necessary.
By explaining your feelings to your loved ones, you spare them the stress and pain of having to make such decisions on their own, without the benefit of your insight. In effect, sharing your feelings, goals and wishes in advance, as best you can, is a way for you to show your love for your family and concern over their emotional well-being.
So now you’re convinced, but you don’t know how you’d begin the conversation? You can always blame it on us. (“My attorney really wants me to talk with you about this …”) We’re happy to take the rap.
We hope that this Thanksgiving is one of the best ever for you and the rest of your family. And if you want to speak to those closest to you about your healthcare wishes but want a different way to start, we can show you other ways to begin the conversation. Chances are, you will find that it is not as difficult as you imagine, and will actually draw your family closer together.
Be safe and have a wonderful holiday!
Jeff, Melinda, and Val
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE – DISABILITY PLANNING
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has authored a compelling Op-Ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times arguing that this country needs to make a greater financial commitment to finding medicines that will delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or, better yet, cure it. The likelihood that a person will develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia doubles every 5 years after age 65. One of every two persons over age 85 is afflicted. This disease is 100% incurable and robs people of their memory, judgment and dignity. It depletes families both emotionally and financially.
By 2050, it is estimated that 13.5 million Americans will be stricken by this disease. We are sure that you will agree that developing a well designed and adequately funded national strategic plan to combat this disease is necessary.
In the meantime, we continue to urge everyone to make both financial and legal plans to deal with this eventuality. The comfort and dignity of you and your loved ones can be maximized by proper planning. By preparing, in advance, detailed instructions to your caregivers on matters of daily living that are important to the preservation of your dignity, you can make a substantial difference in your quality of life if suffering from dementia. Examples of small things like indicating your favorite foods or whether you like the room temperature warm or cool can make a large difference. We can help with both the legal and personal planning. I also am available if you just want to talk. In addition to my professional experience, my 86 year old mother has dementia and I have been through some of the stress and anguish which accompanies this disease.