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Lombard estate planning attorneysBeing the parent of a physically or intellectually disabled child comes with a variety of special challenges. When your child struggles to adequately care for himself or herself due to a disability, you may worry about what will happen when you are not around to help him or her. It can be an uncomfortable reality to consider but making plans for the care of your disabled loved one for after you pass away will give you tremendous peace of mind. One option that many parents of disabled minor or adult children utilize is a special needs trust.

How Does a Special Needs Trust Work?

A trust is a financial instrument often used in estate planning that places assets under the authority of a trustee. In a special needs trust, the trustee is legally obligated to follow the directions contained in the trust and use the funds contained in the trust for the benefit of the disabled individual. The assets held in a special needs trust can be used to pay for your child’s home, living expenses, education, personal care attendant, out-of-pocket medical expenses, recreation, and more. One way to set up a special needs trust is to name yourself as the trustee and name another trusted individual, such as another one of your children, as a successor trustee. When you pass away, the successor trustee becomes responsible for using the assets in the trust for the benefit of your disabled child.

Assets in a Special Needs Trust Do Not Limit the Beneficiary’s Eligibility for Government Programs

You may be wondering why you cannot simply leave an inheritance to your disabled child through a standard will. Many government aid programs are only available to individuals if their property and income is below a certain level. If you leave funds or property of a substantial value to your child without a special needs trust, this could raise his or her income and available resources to a level which disqualifies him or her for these aid programs. When you leave assets in a special needs trust, the assets are not considered income or available resources so this does not limit your child’s eligibility for need-based government programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

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Lombard guardianship lawyerWhen you are the parent of a disabled child, it is common to assume that he or she will never be able to advocate for himself or herself. While some do require assistance during their lifetime, not every disabled person requires guardianship once they reach adulthood. It can often be up to you as a parent to decide whether guardianship is necessary or whether your child can handle his or her own affairs.

Dealing With Probate Court

Guardianship for adults is handled in Illinois by the Probate Court. Disability is not the only potential grounds for which a guardianship may be sought, but it is the most common. There is a rebuttable presumption in Illinois law that an adult over the age of 18 can manage their own affairs. If this is not the case for your son or daughter, you need to be prepared to show evidence to that effect, with a detailed report of your child’s challenges and strengths. Illinois is somewhat unique in that plenary or total guardianship is generally considered a last resort and is only used if the person in question displays a complete lack of ability to manage their own affairs. Limited guardianship is preferable.

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