Serving the Underserved: Caring for People Who Are Both Old and Mentally Retarded: A Handbook for Caregivers

By Mary C. Howell; Deirdre G. Gavin et al. | Go to book overview

49
ESTATE PLANNING: PROVIDING FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUTURE

Henry A. Beyer

A question frequently asked by the parents of older, disabled individuals is how they can best provide for their offspring after their own deaths. This is a question faced by all parents, but it assumes special importance for parents with a child who is unlikely ever to be independent.

What happens to your property after your death? If you have a will, your property will be distributed according to your instructions given in the will A court, called the probate court, is the agency that insures that this is done. The probate court first determines if the will is valid, and then takes steps to put it into effect. This is called probating the will, and the gifts that are made through the will are called bequests.

What happens to your property if you die without a will--or, as lawyers say, if you die intestate? Your estate is then disposed of according to a formula set down in a statute enacted by the state legislature. If you have a spouse and children, your spouse typically gets a specific portion, usually one-half or one-third, and the children get the remainder of all of your real and personal property. If you have no spouse but only children, they typically receive all of your property.

When property passes to children in this manner, it is divided equally among all of the children, whether or not they need it, and whether or not they are competent and able to manage it. Thus, many parents, but especially parents of a child with disabilities, might wish some different form of distribution. These parents should have a will.

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