“By Failing to Prepare, you Prepare to Fail” - Benjamin Franklin

Are you planning to make an appointment with a Florida estate planning attorney and create your estate plan? Have you been putting it off because you have so little time? Having an estate plan is critical, however, it is even more critical if you have a loved one with Down syndrome. When you have a loved one with Down syndrome it can result in both mental and physical challenges for your loved one. You and your loved one need planning protections in place for whatever the future holds for your loved one with Down syndrome.

As the parent of a loved one with Down syndrome you have been both an advocate and caregiver for your loved one. As a parent, advocate and caregiver, you are in charge of many daily tasks including, but not limited to, the following:

• Personally caring for your loved one
• Being sure to protect and advocate for your loved one’s rights
• Making sure your loved one has access to education
• Securing government benefits
• Locating and regularly visiting doctors and specialists
• Organizing and managing prescription medications
• Keeping a stable home environment
• Assist your loved one in all interactions, including with family members and the outside world
• Always protecting your loved one from harm
• Staying aware so that your loved one is not taken advantage of

With so much responsibility for your loved one, the idea that there might come a time when you are no longer here to care for your loved one can be frightening. That is why planning ahead and putting protections in place for your loved one with Down syndrome is so important.

In fact, this is where we can begin the discussion on estate planning and being sure that your loved one is protected should there come a time when you are no longer here to care for him or her. With a comprehensive Florida estate plan you can choose who your successor is for your loved one’s person as well as have a plan in place for your loved one’s financial stability. By planning ahead with your Florida estate planning attorney, who is experienced in this area, you can work together to create a care team that can act in your place when you are no longer here.

By working with your Florida estate planning attorney you will create your estate plan for your loved one with Down syndrome. Your plan will probably include special needs planning because estate planning in this area can include:

• A special needs trust
• Making choices regarding future healthcare decision makers
• Planning for the financial security of your loved one
• Transition plans to ensure someone can access government benefits

As the parent of a loved one with Down syndrome your daily care and attention is knowledge that is invaluable to anyone coming after you. You should consider making a detailed list of instructions on just what it is you do. In fact, we know many loved ones of family members with Down syndrome have fought significant battles for years and they know both what to do and what not to do when it comes to caring for their loved one. With that said, it is important for you to provide instructions for future advocates so they are not at risk of not knowing what to do in specific situations.

Your estate planning attorney has the experience to talk to you about what it means to create a special needs trust for your loved one with Down syndrome. You want to share your concerns with your attorney as well as what your goals for the future are. Our office is here to help you navigate the legal issues related to seeking and covering the cost of memory care. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Did you know that Estate Planning Awareness Week is recognized in October? No matter your age or how much money you have, estate planning can be an important part of your financial health. Estate planning is critical for Florida residents who want to ensure their wishes are respected in the event of temporary incapacitation or upon their death. Knowing the uncertainty of what tomorrow might bring, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, having an estate plan in place provides security and peace of mind. Also, regularly updating what you have put in place can help ensure that security and peace of mind will continue.

Estate planning may be simple or complex, depending on your age, marital and parental status, and what kind of assets you have. For most people, creating a will, choosing a power of attorney and health care surrogate, and designating specific beneficiaries for bank and retirement accounts are what they want to protect the future they desire for themselves and their loved ones.

The first step is often writing a last will and testament. You decide to whom you would like to leave any assets, how to divide your estate, and whether you want to set up a trust that would allow your spouse or partner to live comfortably while preserving assets for children and grandchildren. It is also important to designate specific account beneficiaries for bank and retirement accounts, and make sure the beneficiary you have chosen is in line with your will.

A power of attorney can allow you to choose someone to make financial or legal decisions on your behalf. If durable, this power will survive, even in the event you become incapacitated. A healthcare surrogate will allow you to choose someone to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. You can choose a trusted loved one to fill both roles or choose two different people who may be better suited to one or the other. The important part is that, by planning ahead now, you get to make your own choices.

Remember, it is very important to check in regularly with your estate plan and to make any changes that may be necessary due to life events, changes in law, or under other circumstances. Also, regularly updating your account beneficiaries ensures they are in line with what you have in your will and broader estate plan.

This Estate Planning Awareness Week, take the time to learn more about the importance of estate planning and the steps you need to take in order to establish a strong estate plan. In times of great uncertainty, an estate plan can bring much needed peace. For more information, please reach out to our office and schedule a time to meet.

We understand that planning for the end of life, a disability or aging can be complicated and emotional. We are here to help you.

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