Losing a parent is a difficult and emotional experience, especially for individuals with special needs who may have relied on their parents for care and support. In Atlanta, Georgia, families facing this situation need to be aware of the importance of estate planning to ensure the ongoing well-being and financial security of their loved ones. This blog post will discuss the essential considerations and strategies for estate planning for special needs individuals when their parents are deceased.


Understanding the Unique Needs of Special Needs Individuals

When it comes to estate planning for special needs individuals, it is crucial to recognize the unique circumstances and challenges they may face. Many individuals with special needs rely on government assistance programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to meet their healthcare and financial needs. These programs often have strict income and asset limitations, and a poorly planned estate can unintentionally disqualify them from accessing these essential benefits.


Establishing a Special Needs Trust (SNT) 

One of the most effective ways to protect the financial well-being of a special needs individual after the death of their parents is to establish a Special Needs Trust (SNT). An SNT is a legal tool designed to hold and manage assets for the benefit of the individual with special needs without affecting their eligibility for government benefits. It can be funded through various means, such as life insurance policies, personal savings, or inheritances.


Appointing a Trustee 

Selecting a trustworthy and competent trustee is a critical decision when establishing a Special Needs Trust. The trustee will have the responsibility of managing the trust assets, making distributions in accordance with the individual’s needs, and ensuring compliance with the complex rules and regulations governing government benefit programs. It is advisable to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide the selection process and provide ongoing support.


Providing Detailed Instructions 

When creating an estate plan for a special needs individual, it is crucial to provide detailed instructions regarding their care and requirements. This includes outlining medical preferences, living arrangements, therapies, and any other specific needs. By documenting these instructions in legal documents like a letter of intent, the individual’s future caregivers can have a clear understanding of their unique circumstances, ensuring a smooth transition and continuity of care.


Considering Guardianship 

If the individual with special needs requires ongoing support and is unable to make decisions independently, it may be necessary to establish guardianship. Guardianship grants legal authority to a responsible individual, usually a family member or close friend, to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person. The process of obtaining guardianship can be complex, and it is advisable to seek legal guidance to navigate the legal requirements in Atlanta, GA.


Reviewing and Updating the Estate Plan

Estate planning is an ongoing process, and it is crucial to review and update the plan regularly. Changes in personal circumstances, financial situations, or legal regulations may require adjustments to the estate plan. Regular consultations with an estate planning attorney can ensure that the plan remains up to date and aligned with the individual’s evolving needs.



Estate planning for special needs individuals in Atlanta, GA, becomes even more crucial when parents are deceased. Establishing a Special Needs Trust, appointing a reliable trustee, providing detailed instructions, considering guardianship, and reviewing the estate plan regularly are vital steps to secure the future well-being and financial stability of the special needs individual. By engaging in proactive and comprehensive estate planning, families can gain peace of mind knowing that their loved one’s needs will be met, even in times of uncertainty and transition. If you have questions about estate planning for individuals with special needs or would like to schedule a consultation, please reach out to Brian M. Douglas & Associates at (770) 796-7938 or by using our online contact page. We are always happy to help!