Leaving a Legacy

Planning for a future in which you are no longer around is always difficult but for parents of a child with learning disabilities there are added concerns.

Finding the right provision for your child is essential and can help put your mind at rest that they will be well supported even if you are not around to advocate for them. However, many parents worry about how to plan for their child financially. The following information details several options to help plan for the future.

Writing a will can help to give you peace of mind that your children will get the financial support and protection they need after your death. You may wish to leave money to your child for their ongoing needs, but this must be done with care. Leaving money to a child may cause them to lose means tested benefits, the gift would be used to provide care until this was below a certain value at which point benefits would need to be reapplied for.

Inheriting a large amount of money at an emotionally distressing time may leave your child open to financial abuse and they may be unable to manage such a large sum. Someone may be assigned to help them through the court of protection and you would have had no say in who is chosen.

Leaving it all to other family members may seem like a tempting option, however this is not advised. If you leave your child with learning disabilities out of your will then social services can challenge this in court, incurring costly legal fees. Family members may have the best intentions but once the money has been left to them it becomes legally theirs and can be lost through divorce, bankruptcy or poor financial management. You should also be mindful that circumstances and relationships change over time.

Leaving your assets to your child in a trust is the safest way to protect your child’s financial future. The trust is legally binding and must act in the best interests of your child. You will write a letter of wishes that will act as guidance to your chosen trustees and they must agree unanimously on all decisions.

Money and property are the most common assets left in trust. If leaving property, you should be aware you will also need to set aside money for maintenance and make decisions about what should happen to the property if it no longer becomes suitable for your child.

Trusts can be set up at any time and may start immediately or on the event of your death. Trustees should be chosen carefully, as they will be responsible for managing the fund and making decisions for the benefit of your child. Choosing a professional or someone who is not a potential beneficiary to act as one of your trustees may be valuable. They will be an independent voice for your child and guided by your letter of wishes.

Two letters of wishes should be written when setting up the trust. The first sets out the order of who is to benefit – your child, and then family members or a charity should they no longer need it. The second outlines your child’s likes and dislikes. This is vital as the trustees may not know your child and this will help them to make decisions.

Speak to your family and friends about your wishes and the trust you have set up. Family members may not be aware of how their gifts could impact your loved ones benefit entitlement and they can also leave money or assets to the trust you have created.

It may be daunting to visit a solicitor but professional advice is essential to ensure that your wishes are carried out and anything put in place is legally binding. Think carefully about your choice of solicitor as they not only need to advise on wills and trusts but also understand particular concerns that may arise in relation to your child with a learning disability.

Every May, ‘Dying Matters’ holds an awareness week aiming to support people to be more open about talking about dying, death and bereavement and to help people make plans for the end of life.

Please note, this article is not intended to act as a substitute for legal advice. For more information about planning for the future, please see the useful article links below.








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