Talking about death is difficult no matter who you are, but if you have a loved one with developmental disabilities in Texas, that conversation may be even more difficult. However, if you are responsible for a family member with an intellectual disability, planning for end-of-life care is even more critical, yet discussing estate planning with such individuals occurs less frequently than with those with normal cognitive abilities.
Advances in health care have extended lifespans for those with IDDs
About 1% to 3% of the population have intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Advances in medical treatment have significantly increased the lifespan of individuals with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other conditions that affect the brain, leading to the possibility that these children could outlive their parents. Although your doctor may not know precisely what your loved one can understand, caregivers usually have a better idea. You should attempt to discuss estate planning components, such as who your loved one wants to take care of the medical care and finances after your passing.
Similarly, if you have an older loved one with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, you should get their input before they lose their cognitive abilities. Individuals with IDD can also get dementia later in life, compounding their problems, so you may want to develop directives for such care even if they show no signs of it now.
Ensuring you cover all the bases
An estate plan for an individual with IDD may have more components than for someone without disabilities. Possible strategies include special trusts, powers of attorney, and guardianship to ensure that all aspects of the disabled individual’s life are covered. Disability trusts are a good option for these individuals as they will supplement income received from Social Security Disability payments and allow your loved one to live comfortably.
Although having an end-of-life conversation with your IDD loved one may be difficult, it’s never too early to have that talk and begin planning. As with other estate matters, you can always modify the plan if your loved one’s needs change.