What Happens to My Special Needs Child After I Die?

Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 3.

While many parents know the day will come when their child will live independently, parents like Laura Weinkle are haunted by the constant thought about what will happen to her son if she or her husband were to die.

Weinkle's son, Max, was diagnosed with autism at a very early age and through therapies and immersion has become one of the Trader Joe's favorite 23-year-old employees in Boca Raton, Fla. "We've come a long way and the road has been long, but today Max has a part-time job and is in college studying hospitality," Weinkle says.

Although Max is thriving, Weinkle admits her husband and she are consumed with the anxiety of what will happen to Max once they are no longer living. "Between 80% to 90% of special needs children live with their parents or family until the family member passes away," Weinkle says. "That statistic scares me to death because leaving your special needs child alone without the support and care he still requires is terrifying for any parent."

All parents need to plan for their child's future, but parents of special needs children must be even more vigilant. "The last seminar I attended, and I've gone to plenty, was hosted by a financial planner who said the best thing you can do for your special needs young adult is to get them situated in a living arrangement away from the home before your time is up on this earth is up," Weinkle says. "This statement has been a driving force towards making sure Max is involved in the community and at some point very soon, finding a residential situation where he can live on his own with support."

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