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Old Pueblo Legal Observer

Planning for Children With Special Needs

Posted by Elizabeth D. Spilotro | Jul 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

by Elizabeth D. Spilotro, Esq.

As this article recently discussed, parents of children with special needs face a whole new set of anxieties when they consider what their children's futures as adults look like, especially when the parents are gone or otherwise unable to provide their children's care themselves. Will their child be able to live wholly, or partially, independent? If the child requires full-time caregiving or supervision, who will provide that care when the parent is gone? How can parents ensure sufficient financial resources to provide for their child's ongoing needs?

And very importantly, how will siblings factor into the situation? Many parents know their child's siblings may be the best source of love and concern for their sibling in need, but don't want to burden those other children with lifelong responsibilities. This is especially true when siblings are minors and not yet in a position to accept such adult responsibilities or plan to take them on as adults. Some parents feel it is important to ensure that meeting their special-needs child's financial requirements does not result in unequal treatment for other siblings. In other cases, parents are exclusively concerned with providing for their dependent adult child, after giving their other children all the skills and resources available for them to succeed as independent adults.

A properly-drafted estate plan is a critical element in ensuring care and support for adult children with special needs, no matter what the scenario. A special needs trust can provide supplemental resources for such a child without jeopardizing access to or eligibility for public benefits that can significantly reduce the burden placed on a family to ensure a disabled child's health and well-being.

Furthermore, parents of children with special needs are, understandably, deeply concerned about their child's care – but what happens if and when the parents become incapable and dependent themselves? A properly prepared estate plan will not only determine how things proceed after death, but even more importantly plan for the highly likely event of the settlors' short- or long-term incapacity due to illness, accident, or mental decline. Parents whose children do not have the capacity to live independently need to take special care to plan for a scenario in which they themselves also lose the capacity for independent living. The financial burdens and logistics of care in such a scenario can be very complex, but thoughtful planning with the assistance of qualified professionals, such an estate planning attorney, CPA, financial advisor, and insurance specialist can assure continuity and security for the entire family.

For personalized advice on planning for adult children with special needs, please contact the author at 325-4200 or

About the Author

Elizabeth D. Spilotro

Ms. Spilotro practices in the area of estate planning, charitable planning, estate settlement and probate, and trust administration, and also handles adoption cases. Ms. Spilotro advises individuals, couples, blended families, and unmarried couples in committed relationships to plan for incapacity, care for loved ones with special needs, and provide for family and beloved causes after death. In her adoption work, she counsels prospective birthparents on their options for adoption placement, facilitates selection of prospective adoptive parents, negotiates post-placement contact, and handles all legal aspects of adoption finalization.


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