Parents of children with special needs are heroes. There are so many things that they instinctually know how to handle, mainly because they have been doing them for so long. And they tackle it all — the foreseen and the unforeseen, the challenges and the complicated emotions — with grace, compassion, and tireless effort. But make no mistake about it, they know they can’t do it all on their own. They constantly worry about what they do not know, the questions they do not have answers for, and the planning mistakes that might make life more difficult for their special needs child after they are gone.

In my book, Who Gets Your Stuff When You Die, we cover a variety of estate planning topics that parents of children with special needs do not always think about or have a plan for. This includes everything from Special Needs Trusts to letters of instruction and even common mistakes that even the most well-intentioned parent can make.

Careful special needs planning can help you avoid these common mistakes!

At Leigh Hilton, PLLC, we want to be the resource in your back pocket and the voice in your ear who helps you be the hero that you are. With that in mind, here are five mistakes that parents of children with special needs often make.

Counting on siblings to use their personal money

Parents may be tempted to rely on their other children to provide for a sibling with special needs. This can work temporarily, assuming that the other children are financially secure and have money to spare. However, this isn’t always the case. Siblings have their own expenses, unforeseen issues, and financial priorities. Relying on them to pick up where you left off — especially after you are gone — is an unrealistic expectation.

Disinheriting the beneficiary with special needs

Many disabled people rely on SSI, Medicaid, or other government benefits. Parents may have been advised to disinherit their child with special needs to protect their public benefits. The problem is that these benefits rarely provide for more than basic needs. And as we all know, there is so much more to consider than basic needs. When a loved one requires or is likely to require governmental assistance, parents should consider establishing a special needs trust.


Because none of us know when we will die, it is especially important that parents plan for a beneficiary with special needs early — just as they would for other dependents. Unlike most beneficiaries, children with special needs may not be able to compensate for your failure to plan. Minor beneficiaries without special needs can obtain resources as they reach adulthood and can work to meet essential needs. But those with special needs do not have that ability.

Ignoring the special needs when planning

Planning without the beneficiary’s special needs in mind will probably render the beneficiary ineligible for essential government benefits. A properly designed special needs trust promotes happiness and comfort for the person with special needs without sacrificing eligibility. This may include training and education, insurance, transportation, entertainment, vacations, and essential dietary needs.

Failing to properly fund and maintain the plan

When planning for a child with special needs, it is absolutely critical that there are sufficient assets available for the beneficiary throughout his or her lifetime. Life insurance can be used to provide this liquidity.

Call Leigh Hilton PLLC today!

Planning for children with special needs should start with a thorough evaluation of present circumstances to help avoid these common mistakes. Once you have done that, consider what his or her future needs might include. Please call Leigh Hilton PLLC so that we can help ensure your family will be taken care of in the best way possible. Proper planning of an estate, whether through a Will, Trust, Special Needs Trust, or all three, helps ensure your family is cared for.

Leigh Hilton PLLC wants to be your first call every time for any estate planning need. We look forward to serving you.

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