Mother walking with special needs child.

Building a special needs estate plan

Planning for the care of your loved ones if you're not there is important. It's critical when you are responsible for an individual with special needs.

The first step is to get an attorney experienced in special needs planning. Their knowledge and guidance are invaluable in what can and can't be done. An attorney can help you set up the proper documents for when you're no longer able to provide care to your loved one.

Writing a will

  • A properly executed will specifies who will receive your property after your death. Your will should also list how your property will be divided and allows you to name a guardian for your minor children with special needs.
  • Property with a named beneficiary (life insurance, retirement accounts, jointly owned property) will pass directly to the beneficiary — and is not covered by a will.
  • Rules for making a will vary from state to state, but certain requirements for writing one are common. For example, a person must be of legal age, have testamentary capacity (sound mind and body) and it must be done voluntarily.

Naming a guardian

  • This information will be listed in the parent's will.
  • It's imperative to have discussions with potential guardians prior to appointment. The guardian will have the responsibility of overseeing the care of the individual with a special needs plan.
  • This relationship should be dealt with great care as they are the ones who will eventually be helping make life decisions for your loved one.

Establishing a power of attorney

  • The power of attorney allows the guardian to act on behalf of the special needs adult. This includes interacting with medical providers, and government and social services agencies.
  • Although there are several different powers of attorney, a general power of attorney gives the broadest powers.
  • A power of attorney can alleviate future conflict among family members.

Establishing a special needs trust

  • Establishing a trust creates a separate entity designed solely for the benefit of the individual with a special needs plan.
  • Individuals, family members, even strangers can place money or property in a special needs trust. They can do this while living by gifting, or upon their death when the trust is the beneficiary.

Naming a trustee

  • The trustee is responsible for the allocation of funds for the sole benefit of the special needs individual.
  • Naming a separate trustee (other than the guardian), provides a check and balance for the benefit of the individual.
  • The trustee can be an individual or a trust service. There are various organizations that offer trust services, typically for a fee. A benefit of having an independent trustee is that they can take the emotion out of making financial decisions.

Planning for education, social service agencies and government programs


If your child is diagnosed with a neurological, developmental or physical disability, your local school district's special education programs will play an important role in preparing them with appropriate life skills.

Social service agencies

These agencies can play a critical role in employment and social opportunities. Helping individuals find employment, supporting employment with job coaching and providing recreational opportunities for those with special needs makes them a vital resource.

Government agencies (Supplemental Security Income [SSI]), Social Security Disability Income [SSDI] and Medicaid)

Once qualified, these agencies can provide a safety net for those who qualify. SSI and SSDI provide for the basic food and shelter needs for the individual, and Medicaid provides healthcare services.

Financial services professional

Life insurance and disability income products are great options to help provide for your family should you die or become disabled. As a financial services professional, a State Farm® agent can identify a host of products to help you reach your financial objectives.

Find out more about how insurance can help you reach and protect your goals.

These resources can help you figure out the right plan for your family's needs.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

State Farm Life Insurance Company (Not licensed in MA, NY or WI)
State Farm Life and Accident Assurance Company (Licensed in NY and WI)
Bloomington, IL

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