7 Costly Mistakes

HOW CAN THESE COSTLY MISTAKES BE AVOIDED?

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The common denominator in all of these issues is this question: “How can I get the right legal advice regarding special needs matters?” The fact is, any attorney in California can call themselves a “special needs attorney,” or “elder law attorney” regardless of their experience. Forms are available to any attorney or paralegal for “special needs trusts.” The skill is not in the tool, it’s in the person using it. You need to be able to trust the skill level of your attorney. At a minimum, they should have an excellent understanding of Public Benefits Law to adequately advise you on the type of Special Needs Trust and clauses to use in your individual situation. In California, there are two types of certified specializations that are relevant in this area: 1) Certified Elder Law Attorneys (CELAs), who have Public Benefits Law as the core of their specialization, and 2) Certified Legal Specialists, Estate Planning Trusts and Probate (CLS-EP). While anyone can hold themselves out as a “special needs attorney” or as doing “special needs trusts,” only those who have undergone rigorous evaluation and testing can call themselves either of these. Regardless of whether or not your “special needs attorney” has either of these specializations, you should ask them direct questions about the length of their experience in this area, and what percentage of their practice is devoted to special needs planning.

MISTAKE 7: Funding The Trust

A key benefit of creating a Special Needs Trust now is that your extended family and friends can make gifts to the trust or remember the trust as they plan their own estates. You can also consider whether making the trust the beneficiary of a life insurance policy makes sense now, while you are healthy and insurance rates are low.

In addition to the gifts and inheritances from other people who love your child, you can leave your assets to the Special Needs Trust through your own will or family trust. You can also name the trust as a beneficiary of life insurance or retirement benefits. It is imperative, however, that you get professional advice if you have IRA or other retirement benefits you wish to leave to your special needs child.