Estate Planning for Disabled Loved Ones
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Estate Planning for Disabled Loved Ones

By Louise Danielz, 7 April 2022

Proper estate planning is one of the most important things you can do for your children. Not only does it spare them the anxiety of having to tussle over your estate while mourning your loss, but it can also serve as a final parting gift from one generation to the next.

Despite this, 70% of South Africans still do not have a will in place. While this creates challenges for all South Africans, it is especially concerning for the parents of the roughly three million South Africans who live with disabilities.

The Importance of Estate Planning

Louise Danielz, Chief Operating Officer of Sanlam Trust, says, “For parents who have children with serious disabilities, estate planning is even more crucial as these children may not ever be able to work and provide for themselves. As such, it is imperative that everyone, especially those caring for people with disabilities, enlist the help of a professional to draft a will, regardless of your income bracket.”

According to Statistics South Africa, the national disability prevalence rate is 7.5%, yet employees with disabilities make up only 1% of the workforce. Finding employment and being able to care for yourself is especially difficult when one is disabled. In these scenarios, trusts are key to ensuring that your loved ones are properly provided for, for the rest of their lives, should you not be there to do so in person.

Providing for Your Disabled Beneficiaries

According to Danielz, passing away without having a valid will in place that makes provision for your minor children runs the risk of having their inheritance paid over to the Master of the High Court until they turn 18. This could potentially put their standard of care at risk. Putting measures in place while you are still alive, and understanding the practical implications of those arrangements, is very important.

“There is no time like the present to start your planning,” explains Danielz. “For example, the process of nominating a guardian for your minor child or children can become tricky and time-consuming if you have not made adequate plans or had the proper guidance. There is also a range of options in terms of trusts that you can deploy to suit your unique needs, but all those options require expert advice to ensure you achieve the best outcomes.”

If you do not do adequate planning, funds due to minor beneficiaries could be paid to the Master’s Guardian Fund. To avoid this, it is best to set up a testamentary trust in your will to cater for them.

Estate Planning for Those With Special Needs

The most important thing about planning for your child’s future in the event of your passing is making sure that the specific requirements or unique needs of the beneficiaries are considered.

Danielz says, “Selecting the right person to carry out your wishes is paramount. It needs to be someone you trust and who your beneficiaries will be able to depend on to care for them in the best way possible.”

Why You Need a Trust

Having a trust is key if you want your estate to be administered, managed, and executed in the best way possible for the beneficiary. Being part of a trust ensures that a dedicated administrator, in conjunction with an elected guardian, acts with due care and diligence in administering the funds in their capacity as trustees. This means that the administrator will consider the maintenance needs of the beneficiary, engage with the guardian, and invest the funds appropriately.

Danielz says, “With Sanlam Trust, a dedicated administrator is appointed to engage with the guardian, so that they work together within agreed guidelines to take care of the beneficiary’s immediate and future educational needs if possible. If there is a need to consult with a caregiver, for example, an occupational therapist, to make the best decision for the beneficiary, then this will also take place.”

Paramount in all of this is that, with the right planning, any parent can take care of their disabled loved ones long after they have passed on.

Danielz concludes, “Planning gives you peace of mind and it also creates continuity and support for your loved ones. It is all about understanding what you want and how this can be achieved.”

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