In preparing a Will, parents of a special needs child must give careful thought as to how to divide up their assets among multiple children. In deciding how to allocate resources, consideration should be given to the financial needs of each child, the ability of each child to support himself or herself both currently and in the future and the message sent to children in the decision of how to divide assets. There is no right or wrong answer but the general default rule of estate planning to leave assets equally to children should not be an assumption which is accepted without careful consideration.
When all children are very young, often assets are divided equally among children since all children are dependent at that time. As children get older, where a special needs child will have a large portion of his or her needs met through government assistance and may not have the expensive lifestyle of other children, some parents cap the amount allocated to that child (after ensuring sufficient assets are available to supplement monies from government assistance to provide the lifestyle the parent wants for such child) with the balance of the assets distributed to the other children.
Alternatively, parents may decide that other children will be able to support themselves in the future so a larger share of the estate should be allocated to a special needs child.
In considering this issue, the value of the assets to be divided up must be considered as well as the anticipated expense of each of the children and potential sources of payment of these expenses (earned income, governmental benefits, potential outside inheritances, to name a few). Further, since all of these variables change over time, the decision on how to allocate assets among children should be revisited every few years.