Important Basic Legal Documents That Adults of Any Age Should Sign
Every adult should execute basic legal estate planning documents, including a Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy.
The need for these basic legal documents is even more compelling when you have a child with disabilities. Failing to properly plan could result in your child losing his/her government benefits, including Medicaid and SSI.
A Last Will and Testament is a document expressing your wishes as to how you want your estate distributed at the time of your death. A Will also allows you to designate a guardian to raise your children. Finally, a Will can designate that any assets to be distributed to your children be held in a Trust.
For parents with children, there are two important types of Trusts to consider for your Last Will and Testament.
For a child who is not expected to require any government benefits, you can leave his/her share in a special asset management trust for minors.
This Trust for minors can be used to pay for the support and education of your child (or grandchild) until he/she reaches a designated age (for example, to age 25). Once he/she reaches the designated age, he/she would then receive the balance outright.
For a child (or grandchild) who is expected to require government benefits such as Medicaid, his/her share can be left in a Supplemental Needs Trust.
As long as the Supplemental Needs Trust complies with the strict legal requirements, assets from the Trust can be used to provide for the well-being of your child with disabilities without disqualifying him/her from receiving government benefits. You would then name a remainder beneficiary to receive any balance left in this Trust after the death of your child.
A Power of Attorney is an important legal document where you give a person the legal authority to handle your finances on your behalf. If you become incapacitated in the future and have not signed a Power of Attorney, then a Guardianship proceeding in Court might become necessary.
When you have children, a Power of Attorney can be critical to allow someone to access your finances to be able to pay for your minor children’s needs.
A Health Care Proxy designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. If properly drafted, the Proxy should include the authority to carry out your wishes regarding the removal of life support machines, feeding tubes and hydration. Also, the Proxy should permit the release of private medical information under HIPAA.…