August 28, 2013

Attorney Checklist

In preparation for your meeting with your attorney, you may want to consider the following:

  • Is your attorney well-versed in the area of special needs?  How many special needs trusts did he or she design during the previous year?
  • If you plan to divide your estate equally between your children, is that really equitable?
  • How much will your special needs child require to be financially secure for the remainder of his life?  (Note: This is not your attorney’s area of expertise.  You or your financial advisor will probably need to make this calculation.)
  • What percentage of your estate is in retirement assets? Retirement assets will be taxed more heavily in the Special Needs Trust than if they are left to your other children. (Approximately 50% or more will be lost to federal and state taxes under today’s tax laws.)
  • Do you have permanent life insurance?  If so, you may want to consider using that to partially fund your child’s trust since life insurance is not subject to ordinary income tax.
  • Have you decided who will be the trustee(s) of the trust?  He/she should have good record-keeping skills.
  • Is your attorney making the necessary changes to your beneficiary designations so that your legal documents are coordinated with your financial documents?  This is important so that your child’s trust will be properly funded!

This list is not all-inclusive but rather is intended to be a guide to some of the most basic issues which need to be addressed when meeting with an attorney to plan for the future of your special needs child.


Things went really well at our guardianship hearing.  The judge was such a nice man.  When we went before him he asked if we had done this on our own, which made me a bit nervous since we were the only ones there without a lawyer. I told him we used a Special Needs Consultant and he went on to say how impressed he was by the way the paperwork was done! So a big “thank you” on a great job! P.S.  The judge told us what we were doing was the absolute right thing and not enough people in our situation petition for guardianship.  Thanks again for all of your help.
- Jeanne Garske