As you care for your disabled loved one, did you know that March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month? During the month of March, Americans are urged to provide individuals with developmental disabilities “…the encouragement and opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential…” During this month another issue of importance for people with developmental disabilities is in the area of estate planning. In our California law office we consider this planning important in every area from ensuring a minor child facing a disability is protected in every potential future circumstance through the parent or grandparents California estate planning to providing for a loved one who may need long-term care inside or outside the home, we can provide the guidance you need to protect your disabled loved one.

When you begin planning for your loved one who is disabled there are many legal considerations you need to take into account. You may want to avoid this topic due to the difficult decisions you will need to make but we encourage you not to wait to complete your California estate planning. It is important to plan ahead for the future of your disabled loved one.

Need some thoughts and ideas as you begin creating your California estate plan with your disabled loved one in mind?

Begin as soon as possible to:

  1. Thoughtfully plan ahead. As the parent of a loved one with a disability, were you aware that when anyone with a disability reaches the age of majority in California, there may be many changes that take place? Did you know that even if the person with the disability is unable to provide for him or herself or can barely function independently, a parent or grandparent no longer has the legal rights to make financial or health care decisions once the child is deemed an adult?  Without planning ahead with thoughtful California estate planning, even someone with a significant developmental, cognitive or mental health disability is legally permitted to make decisions at the age of majority. 
  2. Choose the right future decision maker(s). The decision maker(s) you choose for the future when you will no longer be here will have the legal authority to make decisions for your disabled loved one under your California estate plan.  Your California estate planning attorney, who has specific expertise in this area, will be particularly helpful for guidance, especially when it comes to choosing decision maker(s) for the person and property of your disabled loved one. For example, she may recommend a special needs trust. This is a California estate planning tool that can be set up for people with disabilities to ensure that money will be available throughout his or her lifetime. It can be used for a special needs beneficiary while not interrupting his or her ability to receive public benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.  
  3. Create a care plan. In addition to your California estate planning and choosing the right future decision maker(s) for your disabled loved one, what about the care plan you have kept for your disabled loved one? Look back on your life as the caregiver of your disabled loved one and think about what you did as the caregiver? Keep in mind that for years, you have spoken to the schools, to banks, financial institutions, doctors, specialists and so many more for your loved one. What did you say? What did you learn? What do you need to do each month, each day? This list, which is the basis of a care plan, can greatly help not only your disabled loved one but any and all future decision maker(s).

Do you have questions? We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Our office is here for you and your loved ones. Please call us to schedule a meeting time.