Recently, 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.
I understand it is really hard for all parents to face up to writing a Will, however, when you have a child with additional needs, this challenge can be even more complex. But the harsh reality is that if you don’t have a Will, the government steps in and decides what happens to your estate. As you can imagine, the government’s objectives may be miles away from what you wish to happen. In the long term, this also cost your family more money and can delay the process by months, possibly years, sorting everything out.
The government will decide the people or centre who 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 may also make them a ward of court.
This is when the court intervenes and manages your child financial affairs on their behalf.
If your child needs access to means-tested benefits, entitlements, or services, then a standard Will may negatively impact your child. 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 watch our free online workshop and in particular, video 3.
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.
By educating yourself, you increase the chances of having a Will that works for all the family.
To all my families that for one reason or another who never got around to completing this part of the Trust Planning Package then give me a call and I can talk you through the steps again and recommend an experienced solicitor in the special needs area that can help.