The 18th birthday of a disabled child can evoke feelings of apprehension for parents. While some parents may view their children as ready to embrace independence and take charge of their lives, parents of disabled children typically harbor concerns about how their child will navigate life without their oversight. With their child now legally considered an adult, parents may lose the ability to make decisions on their behalf or receive information about their medical or financial needs. This can leave many parents feeling unsure of how to continue caring for their child. However, by preparing thoroughly and seeking professional legal advice, parents can take measures to ensure that their child's needs continue to be met and their best interests remain safeguarded.
To ensure the ongoing ability to provide care for your disabled child after they reach 18, it is advisable to explore the option of having them execute a financial and/or medical power of attorney. A financial power of attorney will authorize someone chosen by your child to make financial decisions on their behalf in case they become incapacitated or are unable to communicate their wishes. In the absence of this document, you may need to pursue legal avenues to acquire the necessary authority for managing your child's financial affairs. It's important to know that if your child chooses you to make decisions for them, they can still make their own choices if they have the capacity too.
Additionally, your child has the option to execute a medical power of attorney. This will allow them to designate a trusted agent who can make medical decisions on their behalf in situations where they are unable to do so or unable to communicate their preferences to healthcare providers. The agent appointed is chosen to make decisions according to your child's wishes. As long as your child possesses the capacity to make and articulate their own medical decisions, they maintain the right to do so, and the appointed agent would only step in if your child becomes incapable of making or expressing their preferences.
Executing a financial or medical power of attorney requires that your child has the mental capacity to understand and sign the documents, with specific capacity requirements varying by state. Even if your child cannot physically sign the documents, they may still be able to execute them. It's crucial to prepare these documents ahead of time, particularly if your child has a degenerative condition. Not planning ahead can lead to serious problems because the documents are meant to assist your child when they can't make decisions on their own. Until that happens, your child can still make their own choices.
In the event that your child is not able to execute a financial or medical power of attorney due to lack of mental capacity, making decisions on their behalf may require court intervention. This process can be lengthy, costly, and public, causing additional stress and difficulties for both you and your child.
If your child is incapable of executing the required legal documents, you might need to undergo a legal procedure in court to establish guardianship and conservatorship. During this process, you would ask the court to grant you the authority to make decisions on your child’s behalf. The exact titles of the roles you may be seeking appointment for vary by state, but generally a guardian (sometimes known as a guardian of the person or conservator of the person) is authorized to make general life decisions for your child, such as where they live and what medical treatment they receive. A conservator is authorized to make financial decisions on behalf of your child.
If appointed as a guardian or conservator, you would have authority to make all decisions, including power of attorney for medical records, and your child would no longer be able to make any decisions for themselves. In some states, you may have the option to seek a limited or partial guardianship or conservatorship, where you can only make decisions specified by a court order. In all other matters, your child retains the right to make their own decisions. The court's overall objective is to promote independence while ensuring that your child receives the necessary support and care.
Get in touch with us today if you are wanting to be prepared for your child with disabilities to approach the age of 18. It's important to plan ahead so that your child gets the same care they had going up well into their adult life. This includes addressing the power of attorney for medical records. Our team is available to provide support and guidance as you navigate through the essential steps.
When it comes to estate planning and legacy planning, most individuals focus on passing down their assets to their children and heirs. However, for those seeking to establish a legacy that will endure for generations, the concept of a dynasty trust becomes particularly intriguing.
A dynasty trust, an integral part of estate planning, is an irrevocable trust that offers similar tax advantages and asset protection as other trust types, but with a remarkable distinction—it can span multiple generations. Often referred to as perpetual trusts, dynasty trusts are meticulously designed to last indefinitely, as long as the trust's assets remain intact. Given the long-term nature of a dynasty trust, it is imperative to establish it with utmost care and attention to detail. Once the trust is in place, its rules generally cannot be altered, underscoring the importance of getting everything right from the beginning.
Setting up a dynasty trust follows a process akin to that of any other trust. The grantor, who serves as the trust's creator, transfers funds and assets into the trust during their lifetime or, in the case of a testamentary dynasty trust, after their death. Once the trust is funded, it becomes irrevocable, and the rules established by the grantor become fixed. Modifying these rules is only possible under specific state laws that govern trust modifications.
When establishing a dynasty trust, thoughtful consideration must be given to selecting the most suitable trustee. It is common practice to appoint an independent trustee, such as a bank or trust company, to administer the trust throughout its existence. Although a beneficiary can serve as a trustee, this approach may give rise to potential issues concerning taxes and creditor protection. A beneficiary-controlled trust can have significant implications for income and estate taxes, depending on the extent of the beneficiary's powers. It can also impact the level of asset protection provided to the beneficiary and expose family wealth to the risk of misappropriation. On the other hand, a corporate trustee, such as the dynasty trust itself, possesses indefinite legal life and can ensure uninterrupted administration across generations. Corporate trustees typically charge an annual fee based on the value of assets held in the trust.
While trusts are generally beneficial for individuals across various financial backgrounds, there are exceptions, and the dynasty trust is one of them. Establishing a dynasty trust does not necessitate grand dynastic aspirations akin to illustrious families like the Medici or the House of Windsor. However, it is most commonly utilized by families with substantial wealth. While there are no legal requirements regarding the minimum amount of funds needed to establish a dynasty trust, from a practical perspective, it is typically suitable for those with sufficient wealth and assets capable of sustaining multiple generations, taking into account the financial needs and responsibilities of the beneficiaries. Grantors who are concerned about future generations beyond their children often opt for dynasty trusts as part of their estate and legacy planning. Additionally, dynasty trusts can prove invaluable for families that own a family business and desire to maintain its continuity within the family lineage.
Statistics reveal that many family businesses fail to survive beyond the second or third generation, but a dynasty trust can significantly enhance the chances of success. By placing shares of the business into the trust, the grantor can provide for multiple generations of beneficiaries while ensuring the seamless continuation of business operations through professional trustee management. The trustee assumes responsibility for managing the business affairs and maintaining continuity, while the beneficiaries reap financial benefits. Furthermore, the grantor can include specific terms within the trust to guarantee competent business management, such as mandating the trustee to establish an advisory council functioning as a board of directors.
In the realm of estate planning and legacy planning, one of the notable advantages of establishing a dynasty trust is the potential for significant tax benefits. By leveraging the federal estate tax exemption amount (which currently stands at $12.06 million per individual in 2022, or twice that amount for couples) to fund a dynasty trust, you can effectively transfer money and property directly to your grandchildren while avoiding gift or generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes. To achieve this, you would place accounts and property into the trust and file a gift tax return to allocate appropriate tax exemptions to the trust or pay a portion of the wealth transfer tax. This strategic approach ensures that these assets are not included in your taxable estate, nor in the taxable estates of your beneficiaries, provided that the trust is fully exempt from GST tax.
Furthermore, utilizing trust funds to cover a beneficiary's living expenses or investing in a home for their benefit can also help reduce their taxable estate. Additionally, when a dynasty trust is properly drafted, accounts and property left to your loved ones within the trust can enjoy protection from creditors and divorce courts. In contrast, gifting money outright may not offer these same protective benefits.
It is worth noting that dynasty trusts are not available in every state due to the rule against perpetuities, a common law principle that restricts the duration of controlled property interests, including those established within trusts. This rule, which was not specifically created for trusts, aims to prevent individuals from exerting control over property ownership for an extended period after their demise through legal instruments like deeds and trusts. However, many states have modified or even eliminated this rule, as its interpretation can be complex. With the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney, you may be able to establish a trust in a state where you do not reside, taking advantage of more favorable laws.
If you are considering the establishment of a dynasty trust, our firm can connect you with a skilled estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process. During your consultation, crucial factors such as selecting a trustee and beneficiaries, implementing tax and creditor protection strategies, understanding state laws pertaining to perpetual trusts, and aligning the dynasty trust with your comprehensive estate plan will be thoroughly discussed. Taking this initial step will enable you to secure your legacy and ensure the preservation of your wealth for future generations. To embark on this journey, please reach out to us, and we will be delighted to assist you.
Every child is a precious gift, and as parents or grandparents, we strive to plan for their future, anticipating their needs and aspirations. However, families with special needs children or grandchildren face additional responsibilities in ensuring their loved one's future is secure, fulfilling, and supported. To ensure a flourishing future for your special needs child or grandchild, estate planning measures focused on their unique circumstances are essential. We recommend the following steps:
When it comes to estate planning, creating a Special or Supplemental Needs Trust (SNT) for your special needs child or grandchild should be a top priority. An SNT is a specialized trust designed to set aside funds and assets for the benefit of a beneficiary who may qualify for public assistance due to their disabilities. It can be established as a standalone trust or added to your existing trust.
It's important to note that government programs providing aid to disabled individuals have strict criteria regarding the amount of money and property a person can own while receiving benefits. Structuring any inheritance your special needs beneficiary may receive in a way that doesn't disqualify them from obtaining government benefits is crucial. Even if they are not currently receiving government benefits, considering the possibility of future needs is essential. To ensure all opportunities are available, it is vital that the trust is meticulously drafted by a lawyer well-versed in the eligibility requirements for government benefits.
An SNT not only provides financial security but also allows you to appoint a care manager or advisory committee. The care manager serves as an advocate for your special needs beneficiary, overseeing their well-being periodically or daily, depending on their level of care requirements. An advisory committee, comprising family members, friends, and professionals, can provide guidance to the trustee on the beneficiary's needs and the best use of the funds.
Additionally, the SNT can include a statement of intent, outlining the trust's purpose and how the funds should be utilized. This section acts as a safety net in case changes in the law make the beneficiary ineligible for government benefits. It allows for modifications to ensure your original intentions are met, even in the face of unforeseen circumstances.
In addition to establishing an SNT, putting your instructions in writing is crucial to ensure your wishes are carried out as intended. Consider creating a letter or memorandum of intent that provides guidance to your trustee on managing the trust after your passing. Although not legally binding, this document offers valuable insights into your true intentions. You can include details on how the funds should be used in accordance with government rules, specific goals you would like the beneficiary to achieve, and the standard of living you envision for them.
Supporting a special needs child or grandchild can be financially demanding, and it's important to consider how to sustain their care once you pass away. Life insurance can be a valuable tool in ensuring there will be sufficient funds for the trustee to use for their benefit. By designating the SNT as the beneficiary, you can provide a lump sum payment that is not subject to the same tax liabilities as retirement accounts.
The SECURE Act has brought changes to how beneficiaries can receive distributions from inherited IRAs, potentially impacting the financial support available to your special needs beneficiary. However, the Act also recognizes "eligible designated beneficiaries," including individuals with disabilities, who can still receive distributions over their life expectancies. Congress has established rules that allow the life expectancy of disabled beneficiaries to be used for certain types of trusts. If you have a substantial retirement account, it is crucial to discuss your distribution options to maximize benefits for all your beneficiaries.
We understand that securing a bright future for your special needs child or grandchild is of utmost importance to you. Our priority is to work with you in developing a comprehensive plan that will guarantee continued care and well-being for your loved ones. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us to schedule an appointment so that we can begin this process together.