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If your child is disabled, talk about the future early

Wills and inheritances are often tricky issues, simply because there are usually a lot of different dynamics in play. Everything can become even more complicated, however, when one of your children is disabled.

If one of your adult children is disabled, there are several issues you need to address with your other children. The sooner you do it, the better. You don't want to leave your children shocked and upset over the terms of your will while they're also in the process of grieving for you. That could lead to a potentially explosive situation that could quickly turn into litigation.

You need to discuss:

1. How you plan to divide the inheritance

When a child is disabled, parents usually want to make certain that his or her future needs are met. That may mean leaving the bulk of your estate to a special needs trust for that child's care and leaving the rest of your children a nominal amount and sentimental items only.

Your other children may need some time to adjust to the idea, but it's important to stress the fact that their disabled sibling does not have the same opportunities that they have to be self-sufficient. Your obligation to that child is different.

2. Who will be your disabled child's guardian and trustee

Your child will need a new guardian once you are gone. Someone will also have to serve as trustee for any trust you set up for your child's needs.

You may want one or more of your other children to serve in those roles -- but it's important to make sure that your other children are willing to accept the responsibility well before the time comes.

As with most family matters, it may be wise to be open to negotiation. More than likely, your other children will understand and accept your final decisions, but allowing them to voice their opinions can go a long way toward heading off more serious conflicts.

Special needs planning for a disabled adult child is a complicated process that has to be done carefully. The more time you allow yourself to work through these issues, the better.

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