Do you have a disabled loved one? Did you know that since 1987, March has been recognized as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month? During the month of March there is a national focus on individuals with developmental disabilities and the need to provide the “…encouragement and opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential…” With a Wisconsin estate plan, how can you provide for your disabled loved one?

In our Wisconsin office we consider estate planning with a disabled loved one in mind a very important area of estate planning and elder law planning. In fact, it is a topic we focus on every month of the year in our practice, not just during the month of March. From ensuring a minor child facing a disability is protected in every potential future circumstance through the parent or grandparents Wisconsin estate planning to providing for an aging adult who may need long-term care inside or outside the home, we want to assist our clients by providing guidance to protect their disabled loved ones.

We want you to be aware that there are many legal considerations you need to make if you are planning for a loved one who has a disability. Often this can be a difficult  topic due to the difficult conversations you need to have but we encourage you not to wait to complete your Wisconsin estate planning. It is important to plan ahead for the long-term future of your disabled loved one. 

We have three tips we would like to share with you. Use them when you begin to create your Wisconsin estate plan for your disabled loved one.

  1. Start planning now. Do not wait, plan now! Did you know that when someone with a disability reaches the age of majority, many changes may take place? In fact, 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 proper Wisconsin 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 future decision maker(s) now. Again, do not wait to choose the person(s) you trust to be the future decision maker(s) for your disabled loved one! The future decision maker(s) you choose will have the legal authority to make decisions for your disabled loved one under your Wisconsin estate plan.  Your experienced Wisconsin estate planning attorney, with his specific expertise in this area, can 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, he may recommend a special needs trust. This is a Wisconsin 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. Your disabled loved one should have a care plan that you have created. In addition to your Wisconsin estate planning and choosing the right future decision maker(s) for your disabled loved one, create your care plan. Your care plan can be described as a diary that you may have kept each year on the care of your disabled loved one. Your care plan may include the years of information you accumulated when you spoke to your disabled loved one’s schools, banks, financial institutions, doctors, specialists and so many more. What did you say? What did you learn? What did 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 future decision maker(s).

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We want to help you protect your aging relatives. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum today.