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The 4 Key Tips for Estate Planning with an Impaired Beneficiary

Written by Eli Crofoot
Published on August 9, 2023

The Value of Estate Planning

Estate planning is one of the most important, yet most confusing and challenging things a family can do.  Ensuring that you or your loved one’s assets are fairly distributed and accessible to your family long into the future is necessary for assuring a stable, happy, and unanxious family life. But, this process is certainly not an easy one for a layman to figure out – especially if the beneficiary lives with mental or physical impairments, or substance abuse disorders. These conditions can make an already complicated process even more daunting.

4 Things You Need to Know For Impaired Beneficiaries

Scott E. Squillace is a business, tax, and estate planning attorney specializing in planning for impaired beneficiaries, and he has vital advice for anyone with an impaired loved one who wants to ensure that they can plan their estate smartly, fairly, and without being taken advantage of.

According to Squillace, as featured on the OPG podcast Beyond the Balance Sheet, there are four key pieces of advice that anyone working through the estate planning process with an impaired beneficiary needs to know:

1. Never be scared to ask questions.

Unless you have a full understanding of you and your family’s situation, and of the specifics of what your trustee is offering, you will never be able to progress without worry. If you are working with a reputable trustee, they will be in your corner supporting your best interests – but you should stand up for yourself and your family when communicating and ensure that you and the trustee are on the same page regarding the beneficiary’s needs. Understanding and awareness are key.

2. Confidentiality is Paramount

Confidentiality is paramount to building the trust that you need to do this work, and it is something that all parties must respect. If any trustee breaches those lines of confidentiality – they are not for you, without any question.

3. Find the Right Person

Pick a good trustee who has good judgment, similar values or goals, and can reliably weather the storm throughout all of your challenges. It is ideal to build genuine trust and rapport with the person put in charge of preparing your family’s estate, especially when faced with the additional, sometimes unexpected hurdles that unfortunately come with the process of finding what’s best for a mentally or physically impaired beneficiary.

4. Utilize a Trust

And perhaps most importantly, Trusts are much more accessible and affordable for everyone and are usually the best option when looking to plan your or your loved one’s estate. When in doubt,  a trust is the safest choice to ensure the beneficiary’s estate is distributed in the most equitable, agreed-upon manner.

Navigating Complex Estate Planning

Estate planning can often be a deeply difficult process for families – after all, just the idea of having to worry about what happens when a loved family member is gone can be extremely troubling on its own. That is often only compounded by the struggle a family often goes through when a member suffers from a physical or mental disability or disorder or substance abuse. But often, that makes ensuring that their estate is distributed fairly and equitably even more necessary for the continued health and happiness of the family unit.

As stated earlier, for more information on this subject directly from Mr. Squillace – please check out our Beyond the Balance Sheet podcast episode on this subject, also available for free here on the O’Connor Professional Group website.

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