Did you know the majority of Americans still have not completed an estate plan? While, as attorneys, we know how critical this type of planning is, we find that most of our potential clients do not realize how important a Florida estate plan is until it is too late. Unfortunately, you are not able to complete an estate plan if you have diminished capacity or are unable to communicate. While the state of Florida does have a line of succession for who may make decisions for you in a crisis or inherit from you at your death, for many of our clients this is different than what they actually want for themselves and their families.

Florida estate planning becomes especially important when you have a disabled loved one. When you have a loved one who has a disability, times can be challenging. No matter what the disability is, we know that you want to make sure they are cared for now and also in the future. That future may be a time when you are no longer here and able to care for them. It is this latter time that your estate planning, which you can create with an experienced Florida attorney, can ensure that your disabled loved one is cared for, no matter what the circumstances are.

We know you may have questions. Did you know that October is National Special Needs Planning Month? While we work with families just like yours to plan to protect loved ones with disabilities at all times throughout the year, let us share three ways you can help right now.

1. Know at what time you will stop being able to make decisions. When someone with autism reaches the age of majority, there are many changes that can take place. Did you know that at this time a parent no longer has the legal rights to make financial or health care decisions for the child? Without proper planning, even someone with a significant developmental, cognitive or mental health disability is legally permitted to make decisions at the age of majority.

2. Know that early planning can avoid court involvement. For years, parents and grandparents may have spoken to the school, to banks, financial institutions, doctors, specialists and so many more for the disabled individual. This has the potential of no longer being a legally viable option on the disabled person’s eighteenth birthday. If he or she can understand basic planning documents, you may be able to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create less restrictive alternatives and avoid the court guardianship process. The key is to not wait and speak to an attorney now.

3. Know your estate planning options. Planning ahead for a future where you are no longer here is extremely important. You do not want the person with disabilities to be left to his or her own defenses, or let the court make decisions through the intestacy process in the probate court. A special needs trust can be set up for people with disabilities to ensure that money will be available for a disabled person throughout his or her lifetime. It can be used for a special needs beneficiary while not interrupting his or her ability to receive public benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.

People with disabilities deserve the best planning possible. The key is to plan ahead, both for your loved one and yourself. Do not wait to contact our office to schedule a time to meet.