Residential property
10 Feb 2020 News

Planning Ahead for Parents of Vulnerable Children – Part 1 Wills & Trusts

Watching a child grow towards adulthood can be an emotional, trying and gratifying time for any parent. However, if you are a parent of a child with Additional Support Need (ASN) or is vulnerable in any way, it can be a time fraught with worry.  We take a holistic approach and look at the legal affairs of your whole family, especially where there is a vulnerable child.

You may be looking to the future and the possibility that you may not always be able to look after the family.  Or you may be avoiding that issue entirely.  However, one certainty in life is death, and it is essential that you have a valid Will in place to provide for your family. 

This is especially the case where you have a vulnerable child as, rather than watching your child “fly the nest”, you may have to think about where your child will be living and what care will be needed if you can no longer provide care.  Your child may be in receipt of means tested benefits or a care package which would no longer be awarded or funded should they receive even a moderate inheritance.  This means that any inheritance from you may be used to pay for daily living expenses and care rather setting your child up for the future as you would wish.

To protect your vulnerable child’s inheritance, we often recommend setting up discretionary trust in your Will.  A discretionary trust is simply an arrangement whereby you appoint trustees to look after the money which your vulnerable child is to receive.  The trustees are directed to pay the money to a number of potential beneficiaries, one of whom would be your vulnerable child.  You must include several potential beneficiaries to ensure your vulnerable child’s benefits are protected, potential beneficiaries can be your other children, any individual or organisation. 

Payments to the beneficiaries are decided by the trustees, who are guided by a “Letter of Wishes” written by you.  This Letter of Wishes specifies how you would like the money in the trust to be used and it may include your wishes as to provision of accommodation for your vulnerable child or the purchase of items which would not otherwise be provided by the local authority or NHS.  The trustees could also pay money to your vulnerable child, but not in such a way which would affect the means tested benefits received.  The trust could also include provision for your other children to inherit, but perhaps not until they have reached an age when you think they could manage their own money.

Perhaps less certain than death is the possibility that you become unable to manage your affairs as a result of a head injury or condition such as stroke or dementia.  Were this to happen having a vulnerable child compounds the difficulties.  Therefore, in addition to making a Will, we recommend you grant a power of attorney, both financial and health and welfare to ensure that your own affairs are in order should you lose capacity to deal with matters.  Otherwise, if the unthinkable happens and you are incapacitated permanently, there would need to be a guardianship appointment for you too.

We have been working for a number of years with various charities to provide training and explain the options available to parents of vulnerable children.  We would be delighted to speak with you about your concerns or, if you have a family solicitor, we are happy to work with your solicitor to put in place the most appropriate arrangements for your family. 

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