What Happens If I Pass Away First: A Conversation About Special Needs Planning

When the issue of special needs planning arises, most people imagine parents protecting their children. Special needs children and adults may rely heavily on government funding and support. Parents with these precious children want to ensure they are provided for and protected when they can no longer do so themselves. This is why special needs planning is fundamental. Those who neglect estate planning have no say in who receives the assets they leave behind. Though this is unfortunate for most, it can devastate special needs families. 


Without an estate plan, intestate laws dictate how your assets will be distributed to your beneficiaries. A special needs child could inherit large sums of money and assets. Not only may they be incapable of controlling them, but an inheritance could make them ineligible for the previously mentioned benefits they receive. Although these are important reasons to create a firm estate plan, special needs planning encompasses significantly more. 


What Happens If I Pass Away First?

Remember this question, and here is why you should. Some people may dismiss special needs planning because they don’t have special needs children. Anyone who does this fails to grasp why this type of planning is vital. We have been very upfront about how estate planning has impacted our personal and professional lives. Several years ago, attorney Tharpe’s mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Sadly, she also sustained a head injury that prevented her from engaging in vital, daily activities. (She received special care, but this involved government benefits.)


Her husband, J. Kevin Tharpe’s father, had created an “I Love You” will. This meant that everything was going to his wife when he passed away. However, this could also be detrimental to her. Though this scenario does not involve special needs children, it must include special needs planning. Why? Because he was concerned about what would happen to his wife if he passed away first. Special needs planning is for anyone with a disability. The parent with a special needs child and the husband whose spouse has a disability face the same challenges and estate planning needs. 


Protecting Those In Need

Attorney J. Kevin Tharpe protected his mother by helping his father create a trust. The trust included key provisions that would take into account the disabilities and special needs of his mother. His father gained the confidence that if he were to pass away first, his wife would have the funds necessary to receive the care she needed for the rest of her life. Though we have discussed this before, it is important enough to be repeated: Titling your assets is everything. 


In this case, the joint bank accounts and other financial assets were retitled in the name of the Special Needs Trust. Additionally, his mother was removed as the beneficiary on the retirement accounts and insurance policies so she wouldn’t inadvertently receive money that would prevent her from receiving government benefits. 


Do You Have an Answer?

If you pass away first, what happens to your spouse? If your spouse has a disability or relies on government benefits, consult an attorney who understands special needs planning. Now that you have a broader understanding of what it is and who it is for, we would be glad to assist you in creating one. Contact our office to schedule a consultation, and we would be happy to continue this conversation.

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Kevin Tharpe

With 25 years of experience, Kevin understands how estate planning, special needs planning, and government benefits programs work together. This is a crucial element of a thorough plan. He explains your eligibility for benefits programs and ensures that you do not make costly mistakes that may disqualify you or deplete your assets.

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