Parents of children with disabilities have to develop an estate plan that will take care of long-term needs.

If you have yet to plan….

If you have a child with a disability and you have not planned for the future, then you should do it now without further delay.

One cannot deny the fact that life is uncertain and something can take place that will prevent you from being able to make the plan that is so vital for someone who is vulnerable and dependent, and the result can be both emotional as well as financial hardship.

This is especially critical if the child is intellectually-disabled. Besides providing peace of mind for all, planning early can also translate into more savings in the long run. It is not that difficult if you go about it in an organised manner. Parents of children with disability should remember that planning is what will ensure that they will be cared for in the best possible way, when you are no longer able to do so.

Prepare the necessary information

To get started, make sure you have the vital information in hand. This will include your child’s personal particulars, medical records and emergency contacts. Keep this information secure but at the same time, make sure it is accessible to those who need to make decisions.

Specify provisions needed

Besides naming a disabled dependent in the will, it is also important to ensure that person’s share is protected in terms of maximum benefit and future security. Providing for a disabled individual will vary according to that person’s level of disability, particular needs and capacities.

Do not burden the siblings

Even if the disabled child has siblings, it is not advisable to solely leave the care of that child to the siblings. Make sure the disabled child is provided for separately so that he will not need to rely on other family members as far as possible.

Set up a trust

A special-needs trust provides an alternative to leaving property outright to your disabled child, who may have little capacity to manage it. Setting up a trust under your will allows the assets to be used for the benefit of the person with a disability in a very specific way. This means that they won’t have to administer their own affairs or have unknown third party do so, and reduces the risk they will be left isolated with nothing.

Therefore, if there are three children and one of them is disabled, the portion of property for the disabled child can be left in trust to be used for that child’s benefit. Your decision on whether to establish a trust in your lifetime or upon death will depend on your circumstances and what you want to achieve and when.

It is better to leave liquid assets in the trust for the ease of managing the funds. Real estate investment should be limited to a home to fulfil only the shelter needs.

Special Needs Trust Company

In Singapore, you can set up a trust with the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC). It is the only non- profit trust company and is heavily subsidised by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (up to 100 percent) to provide affordable trust services.

A trust can be complemented by the Special Needs Savings Scheme (SNSS) which enables parents to set aside their Central Provident Fund savings for the long-term care of their children with special needs. This is especially beneficial if you have

little in savings outside of CPF. SNSS allows the parents to nominate these children to receive a regular stream of fixed payouts upon their death. No fees are levied on the CPF members and the same interest rate as the parents’ CPF accounts will continue to be earned.

Making a will

A will provides for how your assets will be distributed on your death, according to your wishes. A well-drafted will also ensures that those whom you intend to benefit are provided for in the most effective and tax-efficient way possible. A will can also be used to put in place mechanisms to assist and provide for dependents, especially those with special needs.

Power of attorney

It is likely that you will need to appoint someone using power of attorney to handle financial matters accordingly. The person you appoint should be someone who is both trusted and also who is able to be around for the long term.

Appointing guardians

If you have children under the age of 18 years, it is important to appoint legal guardians under your will.

It is always advisable to discuss the situation with the proposed guardians in advance. Trustees should also be appointed over the inheritance to be taken by any child and it is often the case that the legal guardians also act as the trustees.

Letter of Intent

A letter of intent (LOI)
can be used by parents
and caregivers of adults
with disabilities as a way
to express their detailed
knowledge about the person
and to share the person’s
needs and accommodations, and goals and hopes
for the future. It will specify how you want your child to be provided for after you, detailing his or her requirements, likes and dislikes. The LOI should include medical information and what someone taking the disabled person to the doctor needs to know.

Relevant information to be given in the LOI include: ■ Food preferences ,dietary needs and diet goals

  • Medical history with diagnoses
  • Exercise needs and goals
  • Sleep patterns and needs
  • Hygieneandpersonal-careneedsandaccommodations
  • Habits, including challenging behaviours
  • Relationships with family, friends, and communityand how to access them
  • Daily life, such as what the person does
  • Transportation needs
  • Housing situation, needs and goals
  • A list of usual social/recreational activitiesReview and update your plan regularlyCircumstances can and do change over time, which means that any planning being done remains a process that needs to be reviewed and updated regularly.

    If you’re a parent of a child with special needs, life planning is all the more crucial. It will provide peace of mind knowing that your child will be well taken care of when you’re no longer able to do so.