Last week, the NICU Grandpa from Atlanta went from comforting premature infants in a local hospital to warming hearts across the nation. A retired international marketing executive, David Deutchman didn’t exactly set out to regularly get “puked on and peed on,” but it’s quickly become a new-found joy. He told CNN that one of his biggest rewards is spending six months of ups and downs with a family, and then seeing that NICU baby as a healthy toddler a few years later.

Sadly, not all of the children Deutchman cradles share such a promising future. Life-long special needs and developmental disabilities are sometimes the best outcome for a NICU infant. As Deutchman told CNN, “That’s a memory that’s not necessarily a positive one.”

You’re Not Alone: “Disability and American Families”

According to the US Census Bureau’s Report “Disability and American Families,” one in every 26 American families is raising at least one child with a disability – that is almost 4 percent of the population. 69 percent of families with special needs children say that they are very concerned about whether they will be able to provide a lifetime of care for them.

People often think that probate deals solely with end of life processes, but we also help people live out their best lives despite any hurdles that occur along the way, which includes children with special needs.

Special Needs Planning v. a Traditional Estate Plan

The pieces of a Special Needs Plan are quite different than that of a regular estate plan, especially when planning for a disabled minor child. The key difference is that Special Needs Trusts (also referred to as SNTs) are written with a disabled person’s individual circumstances at the forefront of any situations he or she may encounter in life. The Special Needs Trust should serve as protection for a disabled individual, and help them reserve their rights and complete access to all necessary and/or beneficial government assistance programs they may be entitled to, whether now or in the future. There are a few different types of Special Needs Trusts depending on who is contributing to it and who is managing the trust’s assets. The Trust can also be the recipient of proceeds from any settlement reached as a result of the minor’s disability.

An Option for Everyone. A Need for Some.

While our mantra is always “estate planning is for everyone!” it is even more so (if not, critical!) for individuals with special needs.

For individuals with disabilities, having a Trust in place ensures they are financially provided for throughout their life. Under the guidance of a Trustee, a person with special needs will have the funds to cover medical expenses that government benefits don’t pay for, in addition to recreational activities like vacations, sports, therapy, and any vocational training they might wish to pursue, in addition to other goods and services that can enhance their quality of life, such as televisions, computers, and IPads.

That Includes You!

Don’t make the mistake of estate planning for your loved one and not yourself. Your estate plan should be crafted with your special-needs child in mind – You will want to plan to ensure your child is properly cared for if you’re unable to do so yourself. While you may want him or her to benefit from your estate as much as possible, you may need to establish a different personal representative, trustee, and power of attorney for yourself, as well as consider other beneficiaries.

Even if You Don’t Have a Special Needs Child, You Can Still Provide Comfort and Security!

You don’t have to be the NICU Grandma or Grandpa to help a struggling friend or relative with special needs or circumstances. If you want to ensure a special needs person in your life benefits from your estate, please contact our office for a free consultation. With security and protection at the forefront of all our estate plans, and especially special needs plans, our experienced attorneys can ensure you and your loved ones live out your best lives.