I had a zoom consultation with a family in Letterkenny whose youngest child has Autism; it struck me how unaware the parents were of the dangers of not having a Will. In the course of our conversation, they mentioned that making a Will was something they had put on the long finger.

This wasn’t shocking to me as most of my families I help don’t have a Will or, at best have a standard Will, with no special needs trust set up.

Dolores often gives out to me and keeps making the point that it is really hard for all parents to face up to writing a Will when you have a child with additional needs.

What happens if you don’t have a Will?

The harsh reality is that if you don’t have a Will, the government steps in and decides what happens to your estate (Succession Act 1965). As you can imagine, the government’s objectives may be miles away from what you wish to happen. In the long term, this also costs your family more money, have devastating financial consequences for your child and can delay everything by months, possibly years, sorting it out.

The government will decide the people and or care facilities who will care for all your children under the age of 18. If they believe your child with additional needs cannot manage their own financial affairs, they could also make them a ward of court. This is when the court intervenes and manages your child’s financial affairs on their behalf.

If your child needs access to means-tested benefits, entitlements, or services, then a standard Will is going to destructively impact your child’s access. I have seen where parents don’t have many assets when they pass away, but their child was still disqualified from their Disability Allowance.

It is essential you obtain expert legal advice around what is a very complex area. However, before you call your solicitor, I strongly recommend that you attend our free online webinar and in particular, listen carefully to section 3, of the webinar as we talk in detail about discretionary trusts.

https://www.financialwellbeing.ie/webinar/

You are then in a position to have a knowledgeable conversation with your solicitor on the issues facing you as a parent of a child with additional needs. Take the time to write a Letter of Wishes and show this to your solicitor. Have it in writing what will happen when you are no longer around and who will step into the key roles.

To all my families that for one reason or another never got around to completing this part of the Trust Planning Package, then give me a call. I can talk you through the steps again, pass on the Will & Trust Booklet and recommend an experienced solicitor in the special needs area that can help.