What if I have a child with special needs?

This is a situation that can make me a little bit irritated because some attorneys see a client with a child with special needs and will charge them more. “Well, you have a child with special needs so we’ve got to do your trust and then we’re going to do a special needs trust for your son or your daughter,” and it just drives me crazy.

It is not complicated. It is simply a different provision added to the basic trust that you already did. There’s no additional cost. We are able to set it up so that if a child who receives state or government assistance of some kind, that they will not be disqualified if they receive an inheritance. That inheritance will also not be available for the government to come and payback for the care they’ve been receiving. It’s not complicated but it is hugely important and something we love to do and not charge extra for.

What if I have a child that’s dealing with substance abuse or I just believe is an irresponsible child?

Substance abuse is tough because of situations where a person can inherit money and use it to support their drug habit. And then there are irresponsible people that are not quite to that level of substance abuse but they just have bad spending habits or they have a spouse who has bad spending habits. In these circumstances, we can draft provisions for that person where you assign a trustee to then and they don’t receive it until they’re a certain age or ever except for health, education, etc. There are many options and sometimes the best option is to not give them anything because you know they’re going to do something bad with it. It may be better to give it to other children or to charity. We very rarely are involved in disinheriting a child but sometimes it’s the best thing. 

If I know my child is not going to be responsible with the money, is there a way for me to set up provisions where a specific amount is released at specific times or towards specific things?   

Yes. Standard trusts have that for any child that is under the age of 25, sometimes we’ll even suggest that it’s 30. Specifically that the child doesn’t get the money except for health, education, support, and maintenance. We like to leave it as broad as we can for the trustee, but we want to make sure you spend it on the good things and not the bad things.

Some families have it set up where their children get money in stages. For example, they will get a third when they’re 25, a third when they’re 30, and third when they’re 35. It gives them some trial runs so that they can get used to receiving chunks of money. Often, people don’t know what to do with their inherited money so they blow through it so quickly and it can derail their lives. Think about a child who’s 20, who’s in college, inherits some money and thinks, “I’m good. I’m dropping out of school,” or “I was going to be a contractor and I’m not going to worry about that anymore ’cause I got all this money.” It can be really derailing. That’s why you see some of the wealthiest people in the world not leaving their children inheritances.

There is the ability to be creative when assigning how the money works. It’s tailored to each person and we keep the framework of our documents as close to what we know is going to work. But the “who gets what” part and “how they get it” part is where we get really creative. We have set up some really amazing things for families where they just know that that child is going to be fine.

And sometimes that child turns their life around and the parent comes back and tells us, “They’re good. Let’s just give it to them right now.” That is a blessing to hear. 

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