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A will, yes, but perhaps one or more trusts as well

What do you do if you’re a baby boomer couple in Texas or elsewhere seeking to provide lasting security for a child with a disability that will render it unlikely he or she can live fully independently after reaching adulthood?

That is far more than a theoretical question for many would-be estate planners across the country, who balk at making purposeful and timely decision owing to one or many reasons.

One reason in many instances is that loving parents simply -- and understandably -- lack the requisite knowledge to know what will best protect a disabled child in the future. How can a sufficient amount of money be set aside? How can it be protected from tax authorities or other creditors? Who should be appointed to promote a child’s best interests, and how can that be ensured?

Many people are greatly relieved when they become educated on the purpose and parameters of a special needs trust, which can be a very powerful ancillary estate planning tool accompanying a will. The latter document -- described as “the foundation of any estate plan” in a recent Wall Street Journal -- sets forth property division details and other important matters, but a special needs trust can command special utility for any family concerned with the well-being of a disabled child in future years.

Money distributed through a will might necessarily have to be doled out all at once, in one lump sum, with attendant tax considerations. Properly executed, a special needs trust can protect funds from being claimed upon by third parties and, additionally, help ensure that a disabled child continues to be eligible for government benefits into adulthood.

The flexibility and protective aspects of trusts are invaluable for many families. A proven estate planning attorney can explain why and help tailor a plan that makes optimal sense in any given case.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Estate plans needing more than a will,” Carolyn T. Geer, Aug. 3, 2014

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