Let's face it. Our lives are complicated. We have more on our plate than many families. There's all the various therapies, the doctors appointments, the medical history, the medications and durable medical equipment, IEP's, Medicaid, SSI, and the list goes on. I have created a separate binder for each major category.
Yet of all these binders, there is one that is most important and it is called LEGAL. Inside you will find copies of her guardianship papers, her special needs trust and our wills. Each year around her birthday I review the documents and make sure they are accurate. Every few years we pay to have our attorney review them with us. Does it cost money? Yes it does, but it is our obligation to the people who will be caring for our daughter should something happen to us.
If you watched Oprah today, you probably know what I am so upset about. You may have heard this already. I had not. I'm referring to the very tragic story of the Billings family. I was shocked to hear that the parents of nine children with special needs did not have any life insurance or valid wills. The life insurance I can try to understand. But for those parents to not have wills, puts a huge additional burden on the daughter and her husband who are now caring for the children. I'm sure they did not purposely mean for this to happen. Rarely do people want to talk about death, but we really all must have VALID WILLS, no matter how small your estate.
For those of us with a child with Down syndrome, it is so important to make sure the attorney you are working with understands Special Needs Trusts. Not just trusts, but Special Needs Trusts and Medicaid. Even if your child is years away from age eighteen, this is critical for long term benefits. The Down syndrome association in your area may have someone they can recommend or ask other families for a referral.
If you are in Northeast Ohio, I highly recommend Hickman and Lowder. Even if you are not in this area you can click on their website to read more about Special Needs Trusts.
If you have recently moved, be sure to check the laws in your current state for what makes a will valid. It seemed that Mrs. Billings did have a will but it was not properly witnessed for the laws in the state of Florida. Please, if you do not have a current, valid will, I urge you to take action TODAY!!!