As a parent or grandparent of a person with special needs, we know how critical it is for you to ensure that he or she is protected both now and well into the future. Unfortunately, there may come a time when you will no longer be able to care for your loved one. You may share these questions our clients ask, which include, how can I make sure my disabled loved one will be protected, who has authority to make decisions when I no longer can, and how do I ensure that his or her government benefits will be protected?

We know that thinking about the future can be a challenging time, especially in light of your current caregiving duties. Let us share five tips and ideas we share with our clients, friends, and advisors, to help them care for their loved ones with special needs.

1. Find support in your local community. You need to ensure that your disabled loved one will be provided for under any circumstance. Do not wait to build relationships for yourself and your family in the community. Health care workers, financial professionals, and disability advocates can all be there to help you in times of a crisis. Remember, it is always easier to find help before you need it.

2. Preserve and protect public benefits. Many disabled individuals receive substantial benefits from the government. This could include, but not be limited to, Medicaid and SSI. You do not want to create an estate plan that could jeopardize these benefits in any way. Do not wait to discuss this with your estate planning attorney as you plan for the future.

3. Help family members leave a legacy. Be it grandparents, aunt and uncles, or even siblings, you all may want to plan for your disabled loved one. It is critical to share with family members that he or she cannot inherit under traditional estate planning or be at risk of losing valuable government benefits. Educate your family early on the form this estate planning may take when it comes to your loved one.

4. Create the estate planning for you and your loved one with special needs. You need your estate planning to plan for both your and your disabled loved one. It is crucial that you and your estate planning attorney discuss all the ways you can work together to ensure that your loved one is protected under any circumstance. Remember, the earlier you plan, the more options you may have.

5. Avoid caregiver burnout. Although this is not directly related to your loved one with special needs, it is important to consider. You are one of the most important people when it comes to caring for your loved one with special needs. You need to ensure that your health and well-being are always a priority as well as providing caregiver support.

We know that this article on special needs planning may raise more questions than it answers. Do not wait to ask us your questions and let us help you create a plan that works now and in the future.