One of the most wrenching, demanding experiences a human being can have is being responsible for a person with special needs. Along with the day-to-day challenges of caring for someone with a mental, physical or emotional disability, the real- world questions around preparing for their future are daunting. If a family member suffers from a long-term disability, whether physical or mental, it is important to address his or her extensive needs for the future when creating your estate plan. If you pass away or become incapacitated, who will take care of your special needs family member? Who will make their financial, healthcare and legal decisions? How can you leave them a portion of your estate while ensuring that they still qualify for state and federal benefits? These are the issues the attorneys of our Special Needs Trusts and Planning practice focus on.
Special needs situations vary widely. No two clients are the same. One may be an elderly widow with a mentally ill son. Or a young man whose brother is bipolar. Or a woman whose husband has a substance abuse problem. For whatever reason, our clients are faced with family members who are unable to manage their own affairs, and whose future needs to be secured.
The lawyers of Buchanan & Stouffer can help you address all of these concerns in a practical and compassionate manner. More than in any other area of law, empathy and compassion are an essential part of our work. The attorney who leads our Special Needs practice, Lisa Eastin, is a single mother of four sons, one of whom is diagnosed with mental illness and learning disabilities – we understand, firsthand, what our clients are dealing with and how challenging simply coming to terms with the fact of a special needs family member can be.
Special needs situations are often affected by eligibility for government benefits. If that is a consideration, our attorneys can develop tailored planning strategies that will allow your special needs family member to maintain their quality of life, and that provide the greatest possible support and care without disqualifying him or her from government benefits or Medicaid programs. We also plan for special needs clients who are not receiving benefits, and may or may not do so in the future. Our firm can also help you weigh the options of creating a trust inter vivos (during your lifetime) or including your special needs family member as part of your estate plan at death. In the end, the goal is always the same – to protect the vulnerable, whatever form that may take.
Our comprehensive planning process also includes discussions of who is best suited to represent your family member with special needs in matters of personal care, health care and finances. Often, another family member can take the responsibility for both. In some circumstances we recommend a bank, trust company or other financial institution be in charge of management of your assets. In every special needs case, our dedicated lawyers are committed to protecting the best interests of your family member while upholding your wishes for transferring your wealth.
And more than anything, we can help you provide your special needs family member with security, dignity, and above all, a future. In the end, nothing can make living with special needs easier. We can, however, help prevent it from becoming harder.