By: Randall A. Denha, J.D., LL.M.*
Doctors recommend visiting once every year for a physical, and dentists stress the importance of six-month checkups, but did you know that you should also take the time to review your special needs plan with your attorney at least once a year?
After you’ve worked with a special needs planner to develop a comprehensive plan for your loved one, it’s easy to throw your new special needs trust into a drawer and forget about it, especially if you are not planning on funding the trust until you pass away. Likewise, if your loved one with special needs has executed a durable power of attorney and health care proxy in case of an emergency, she may squirrel the documents away for use if needed, and never look at them again.
While having a plan in place is a great start, it won’t be of much use if it is not maintained (think of installing a brand new engine in your car and then never changing the oil). Often, small changes in circumstances can have huge legal repercussions when it comes to special needs planning, and delay can literally be life-altering. For instance, if you name a trusted friend as your health care agent, and that friend moves to another country, she may not be there in a pinch when she is needed the most. If you don’t take an occasional glance at your special needs plan, you may be stuck with outdated, and ineffectual, agents.
Add to this the ever-changing world of federal disability benefits. Although many families of people with special needs stay on top of developments in this area of the law, it’s usually impossible to be tuned into all of the changes that take place over the year in this intricate field. Your special needs planner, on the other hand, not only learns about the new ins and outs of disability benefits law, but he or she may also be instrumental in shaping new policies on a local, state or federal level, and these new policies may have a direct impact on your special needs plan.
Finally, your loved one with special needs is constantly growing and changing, and as he does, his needs will change along with him. If your plan is not reviewed annually (or more often in especially complicated situations), it may not be designed to maximize the benefits available to your relative, despite your best intentions.
If it has been a while since you took a peek at your special needs plan, take it out, dust it off, and schedule an appointment with your special needs planner. You may have a lot of work to do, or none at all, but staying on top of things will pay dividends in the end.
*Randall A. Denha, j.d,, ll.m., principal and founder of the law firm of Denha & Associates, PLLC with offices in Birmingham, MI and West Bloomfield, MI. Mr. Denha continues to be recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by Michigan Super Lawyers in the areas of Trusts and Estates; a “Top Lawyer” by D Business Magazine in the areas of Estate Planning and Tax Law; a Five Star Wealth Planning Professional and a New York Times Top Attorney in Michigan. Mr. Denha can be reached at 248-265-4100 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org