After decades devoted to work, you’re ready to retire and celebrate your own personal Independence Day. Your plans this Fourth of July might include spending more time with the family, visiting America’s National Parks, or ramping up your volunteer work. You might even be thinking about starting a business. Whatever your plans for retirement, it’ll be your choice.

Getting ready for your own independence includes making sure your personal business is taken care of. What you need to do next depends on whether or not you’re among the millions of Americans who don’t have an estate plan to protect yourself and your family. If you or a loved one is disabled, then there are additional steps you will want to consider as well.

If you have no will or trust, contact our Framingham special needs planning team to make an appointment. Don’t delay any longer.

Why is this so important?

As you near retirement, you probably have more assets than at any other point in your life. Your estate plan directs how these assets are distributed at the time of your death. Estate planning lawyers are fond of telling people if they don’t have an estate plan, the state of Massachusetts has one for them, only they may not care for the results. Without an estate plan, the court may rely on your state’s laws of intestacy and your family may have to live with whatever the court decides for both your welfare and that of your special needs loved one.

The court may be more involved if there is no legal plan in place and your entire estate could go through probate. In probate, an administrator may be named to manage your estate, who may be a complete stranger.

Many people make the big mistake of thinking being married means you don’t need an estate plan. But you don’t know which spouse will die first, and you don’t know how far apart your deaths will be. Both partners need to have a plan. On the flip side, it’s important to consider how to protect your child in the event of divorce. Read more in our article: Divorce and Estate Planning for Parents of Special Needs Children

If that’s not enough to convince you of the importance of an estate plan, here’s another reason: naming the person in charge of your remains. Without an estate plan, the court may choose the person to make decisions about your funeral, burial, and memorial service. They will try to make a good decision, but without your instructions to follow, the court could choose anyone – even an estranged family member … then who knows what your funeral would look like!

For a special needs family, planning for your own independence and the future of your disabled loved one requires additional planning. Including a special needs trust in your estate plan is a primary element to ensure that your disabled child is protected from creditors and predators, as well as access to public benefits is maintained.  In an episode of the Parenting Impossible Podcast, Host Annette Hines discusses 3 Things to Consider Before Retiring with an Adult Disabled Child. The additional elements to consider for an adult disabled child if and when you retire are the following. 1) Getting your financials in place while considering all income streams for you and your adult disabled child especially disability payments under the SSDI program.  2) Healthcare and health insurance access for your adult disabled child and yourself and how this will change once you retire especially if you are receiving employer paid healthcare benefits. 3) Updating your Circle of Care, or the people and systems that provide services to your adult child based on how your role will change once you are no longer working.

Admittedly, these are difficult things to consider, but an estate plan is a powerful way for you to stay in control and truly declare your independence from outside interference in your private matters!