Many people choose to create an estate plan to provide for their loved ones after their death. In some cases, this may include providing care for a person with a physical or mental disability.
If you intend to leave any portion of your estate to a disabled beneficiary, it’s crucial to develop your plan carefully to meet that beneficiary’s individual needs. A well-developed plan will ensure that your loved one receives the maximum amount you wish to leave them from your estate, without disqualifying them from certain government benefits.
Here are some considerations to keep in mind and include when creating an estate plan for a loved one with a physical or mental disability.
How to create an estate plan for a disabled beneficiary
There are several estate planning strategies that will ensure your loved ones are cared for after your death, including provisions in your Will and a Special Needs Trust (SNT).
When your estate plan includes a disabled beneficiary, there are additional steps you’ll need to take to ensure their individual needs are met:
- Understand the type of disability. The needs of someone with a physical disability will differ from those with a mental disability, and specific physical or mental disabilities will require specific supports. The interaction of multiple diagnoses can also play a role into the type and degree of disability.
- Understand the beneficiary’s abilities and limits. Even within a given diagnosis of a physical or mental disability, each individual has their own unique abilities and limitations. Keep in mind what your loved one can do, in which areas they need support, and the level of support they need.
- Consider their future needs and whether their condition will require extra help. In addition to considering your beneficiary’s current needs, you will also need to keep in mind their future needs. If they will need special housing or care down the road, include any specifications for these in your estate plan.
- Determine the government benefits and sources they rely on. Government programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs have specific qualification requirements, including limits on the assets or income a beneficiary may have in order to qualify for such benefits. If your loved one relies on these programs, check the eligibility requirements to ensure that your estate plan does not disqualify them.
Disinheriting a beneficiary with a disability
One estate planning option is to disinherit the disabled individual. Though this may seem counterintuitive, the process of disinheritance allows your loved one to continue collecting government benefits while also being supported by any siblings or close relatives.
In essence, a disinheritance estate plan would leave the entire estate to the surviving relatives of the individual with a disability, while also legally obligating them to use a portion of the inheritance to provide care for their disabled sibling.
While disinheritance is a less complicated option than including a disabled beneficiary in your estate plan, it also has potential downsides. One major disadvantage is that your loved one may not receive the full portion of the estate that you intended for their care. Factors such as sibling bankruptcy, divorce, or failure to fulfill their obligation of support can all reduce the amount of the estate that the disabled sibling actually receives. Additionally, the process of disinheritance can also harm the relationship between the disabled individual and the person making the estate plans.
Get help with your estate plans
Estate planning can be a complicated process, especially when planning for the care of someone with a physical or mental disability.
If you are in the process of creating a Will that includes a disabled beneficiary, contact the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor for help. We have 20 years of experience handling estate planning for Virginia residents and can guide you and your family through the process.
Contact us today to schedule a free 30-minute consultation about your estate planning needs.