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How an inheritance could impact special needs assistance

You want to do all you can to help your child, who has special needs. You know there are benefits and government aid programs.

One key thing to avoid is giving the child assets that may accidentally disqualify him or her. In many cases, experts note that a person with over $2,000 in assets won't qualify at the state or federal level.

Attitudes toward long-term care have shifted. Why?

Over roughly the last two decades, attitudes about long-term care have changed. One expert noted that the change started around the year 2000.

Generally speaking, it's something people think about more now than they have in the past. They're concerned, even worried. They're interested in planning in a way they weren't in previous decades.

Don't make these 5 estate planning mistakes

Estate planning is critical, and it's far more than just making a will. You also need to think about things like long-term care planning, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and much more.

The financial impact of even one small mistake can be huge. With that in mind, here are five mistakes you should try hard to avoid:

Important financial benefits available to elderly veterans

If your parent is suffering from dementia -- or you know an elderly person who is -- you might relate to the story that follows. A woman started looking for an assisted living facility for her mother, who was in an advanced state of dementia. Later, she discovered that her mother qualified for Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. The VA benefits were a great boon that could help pay for her mother's care.

The woman's mother qualified for benefits because she was the widow of a World War II vet. The problem was, she didn't know about the available benefits until after she had been living in an assisted living facility for years. Much money had already been spent, and many benefits had been left untapped.

Powers of attorney and the onset of dementia

Watching your parents age can be immensely difficult, and this may be particularly true if your parents are suffering from dementia. At some point, it may be wise for you and your parents to sit down and talk about creating powers of attorney.

Power of attorney grants a trusted person the right to make important decisions on behalf of the person who creates the document. There are two main types of power of attorney -- financial and medical. Typically, powers of attorney are established with the help of an elder law or estate planning attorney.

Studies show that communication is lacking with estate planning

You're doing your estate planning, deciding how you're going to pass your assets on to your children. You're picking roles for them, such as naming one the executor of the estate, and deciding what you think is best for their lives moving forward.

It may seem obvious to you that you need to talk to the kids about all of this, but a surprising amount of people fail to do so. A lack of communication is a serious issue that shows up in a lot of surveys.

Is it time to discuss powers of attorney with your parents?

Maybe this is your aging parents' situation: for all of their married life, your father has taken care of their financial affairs, from managing investments to paying the household bills. But your dad now has some minor health problems, and little warning bells have gone off in your mind.

What would happen if he were to suddenly become incapacitated? Who would make financial decisions and handle the bank accounts and bills? Has someone been designated to make healthcare decisions in the event that your parents can't do so themselves?

Questions to ask before establishing guardianship of a child with special needs

If you have a child with special needs, you have undoubtedly grappled with concerns about his or her future. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to determine whether your child will require a guardian after he or she turns 18 years of age. 

In most cases, people living with disabilities are still perfectly capable of handling the nuances of everyday life. They can live on their own without the help of a guardian. However, there are times when establishing guardianship is the best option, and parents may need to ask themselves some tough questions before taking this important step. 

Three important legal documents you need

While doing your long-term care planning and medical planning, it's important to know exactly what documents you can use to reinforce your wishes. You must do more than just tell family members what you want. To really be prepared, get it in writing.

Below are three different documents you can use.

Does a beneficiary form override a will?

When doing your estate planning, it's important to know what documents are going to take precedence. This helps you understand how assets will be distributed and what updates you need to make if you want to alter that distribution for any reason.

For instance, maybe you started an IRA or a 401(k) about 20 years ago. You listed your spouse as the beneficiary because you were married at the time and it made sense.