When a loved one has special needs, you can’t just assume that everything will work itself out upon your passing or becoming disabled. Whether it is a special need caused by dependency issues or a need that someone was born with, the end result is the same.  Just leaving your estate without proper guidance could be the beginning of the end for that loved one.

Let’s start with the easiest to deal with; a child born a lifelong condition. Under this circumstance, the hardest part is the 24/7 aspect of a job that you truly love doing but down deep know that it will wear you out to the bone. Perhaps the first issue for the parents is a means to find some support and respite from the intensity of the daily grind. But once you get your situation working to your satisfaction, you unfortunately must figure out what to do when the parents pass away.

At this point, there is often some sort of state agency or aid involved in care. But as a family with a member with special needs already knows, this aid is year by year and could disappear with poor planning for the inheritance for the child. A specific type of estate planning may preserve certain benefits for your child and allow any funds that you’ve saved for them to supplement their lifestyle.

Then there is the family side. To the extent that there are siblings, reach an understanding with them on the standard of care that you hope they’d continue to provide for their special needs sibling. You can’t rule from the grave and insist that they visit, etc., but you can alter the form of the inheritance by using trusts in a way that rewards your healthy children for devoting a material piece of their lives to the disabled sibling.

The wild card type of special needs comes from those loved ones with substance abuse issues. When this is present, parents know that any day could be ‘the’ day. But just like special needs – this loved one really needs to be protected from large sums of money. In the long term, the issues are very similar to traditional special needs except that there’s always hope for a full recovery. Unfortunately, that hope often turns to despair but that doesn’t mean that any family wants to stop supporting their loved one.

Then there are special needs caused by medical conditions that may or may not be terminal. Think strokes and other dreaded diseases that keep you alive for a long time in a permanently disabled state. Upon discovery of conditions like these, an updated estate plan is most often required. Of course, if your loved one is so disabled that they aren’t deemed competent – it may be tough.

As always – the right answer is to fix your issues now before something even uglier happens.