By Laura M. Brancato and Mary P. O’Reilly
Addressing long-terms needs can be a challenge.
To be an effective estate-planning practitioner, an attorney must have an informed understanding of the multitude of challenges that their clients or their loved ones face. Proper planning for the vulnerable is a mandate that must be considered seriously. A good estate plan is only effective if it contemplates the long-term needs of both the client and the ultimate beneficiary of the plan, and a failure to consider the complexity of those with special needs—beyond the inclusion of a special needs trust (SNT)—might ultimately make even a superior estate plan ineffective. This additional “second stage planning” of ensuring comprehensive and enduring care for clients or beneficiaries with special needs is critical and should become part of our planning. While we all recognize that perfection in planning is impractical, and likely even impossible, as planners, we must push our practices to evolve to meet the needs of a rapidly changing client world. Although this need for second stage planning applies to all types of disabilities our clients and their beneficiaries face, this article will focus on the unique challenges of mental health disabilities, but the principles discussed apply more broadly to all disabilities.
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