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Is a sibling the right trustee for a special needs trust?

As a parent of a special needs child, you likely have concerns about the care and protections your child will have in the future when you can no longer be there for them. Planning for the financial solvency and physical care of a special needs child is one of the many unique considerations that most parents don't have to ever worry about.

The creation of a special needs trust can give you peace of mind, as you know that your child will have the resources they need regardless of what happens to you. However, you also need to name someone as the trustee who will administer the trust and manage the funds on behalf of your special needs child.

Picking someone you trust, as well as someone with an attachment to your special needs child, is often the best route to take. If you have more than one child, you may consider naming another of your children as the trustee for the special needs trust. While that can be a great option, there are definitely concerns you need to consider before finalizing your plans.

Is there a healthy, positive relationship between your kids?

Quite a few people might imagine that the sibling bond is both automatic and unbreakable, but that isn't always the case. A sibling who grows up in the shadow of a special needs child may come to resent their family member for the amount of attention they receive from their parents and how much the family's life revolves around the child's needs.

While many people do mature out of those feelings, for some, childhood issues can give rise to adult resentments that could eventually turn into abuse if the resentful sibling has authority that they can weild. Working with a therapist, counselor or minister can help you evaluate the strength of the relationship between the siblings.

Does the potential trustee have the time and ability to manage the trust?

Depending on how you structure and fund the trust, serving as a trustee could require quite a bit of time and specialized knowledge. You need to carefully consider whether anyone you might appoint as trustee has the mental capabilities and time to commit to serving as a trustee. You should also consider their ethics and past behaviors, as leaving a sibling in charge of a special needs trust could leave your child vulnerable to financial abuse.

Do you have the ability to provide an incentive?

When someone has to do something for free, it is much easier to view an obligation as unfair or stifling. Allocating funds to compensate your child for serving as the trustee of the special needs trust or giving them a slightly larger inheritance to offset that extra work can be one way to ensure that your child will embrace their responsibilities instead of growing to resent them and their special sibling.

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