How to plan for an adult sibling with a disability

In many families with an adult child with a disability requiring daily care, there is an understanding, either implicit or explicit, between the parents and other adult children that at least one of the other adult children will care for their sibling after the parents die.

Is such an understanding good enough on its own? The answer is: Probably not. For one thing, finances could be an issue, with the new caretakers scrambling at the last minute to figure out how to afford their responsibilities.

Eligibility for government benefits

A concrete road map, such as an estate plan, helps parents plan proactively for their child's financial future. With the proper steps, which include not leaving a lot, if any, high-value assets to the disabled child, parents can preserve his or her eligibility for programs such as SSI and Medicaid. This is one way to ensure the child's new caretaker does not take any serious financial hits.

Special-needs trust

There is also the opportunity to set up a special needs trust. It helps maintain a person's eligibility for government programs and lets parents appoint someone responsible and financially savvy to help care for their disabled child.

Parents' own finances and care

If you are the parent of an adult child with a disability, you also need to look out for yourself and possibly your spouse. Estate planning is a good way to maximize your assets so they stretch further and last longer in your retirement. After all, caring for a child with a disability can be expensive, even with the aid of government programs.

All on the same page

An "understanding" is not the same thing as an agreement that resulted from fair and thorough discussion. It could be that your adult children simply will not or do not want to care for their sibling. Estate planning helps you avoid assumptions and identify someone suitable.

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