Planning for your Family’s Future: A Q&A with Probate Power’s Chris Brock
Probate Power provides personalized, family-focused legal representation exclusively focused on special needs planning, estate planning and probate administration.
Chris Brock is the managing attorney at Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition’s program Probate Power, a mill levy-funded initiative founded on the principle that everyone, especially the Colorado disability community, deserves high quality legal representation. Probate Power supports families in creating understandable estate plans that protect loved ones with disabilities and guides them through the probate process when a loved one passes away. The program was created to address a community need for special needs trusts, guardianships and estate planning. The service also generates revenue for Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), an organization that provides legal services and grassroots organization to advocate for disability rights in Colorado. We discussed the importance of estate planning with Mr. Brock.
What is special needs planning?
Special needs planning helps families make a game plan to ensure that their loved ones with special needs are taken care of after they are gone. We help clients maintain eligibility for public assistance programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), create special needs trusts, appoint guardianships and create estate plans to manage assets when a loved one passes away.
Why is it important for individuals with special needs and their families to create a plan?
We focus on special needs planning so family members of a person with a disability can find the support they need and stay protected in the future. Often, I work with families to make sure an inheritance from their parents goes to a special needs trust. This will allow the person with special needs to continue to access benefits that have asset limits like Medicaid and SSI. I also work with families to appoint guardianships for family members who cannot make decisions on their own. I am able to get them a guardian who can make sure the incapacitated individual is healthy, safe and help them make a decision, so they live a stable life and do not get exploited or lose their public benefits because they do not understand the situation or make a wrong decision. I work with each family based on their unique circumstances.
When should families begin preparing for the future?
It is best to create a special needs plan when a family knows their child will need public benefits for a lifetime. It is always great to begin preparing when their kids are young but that is not always possible. Usually a family will come to me when a child is in their late teens getting close to 18. Once a child becomes 18, they are considered an adult and will have to worry about guardianship and transition programs. Families often will come to me for help with guardianship and special needs planning all at the same time.
Can you share an example of a family that has benefitted from creating a special needs plan?
I worked with a family with three kids, and the oldest had severe autism. He turned 18 and I helped the parents acquire guardianship for the adult child so they could make decisions for him, access his medical records and speak to his doctors on his behalf. At the same time, we put an estate plan in place so they knew what would happen to their assets when they passed away and who would look after the kids, especially who would succeed as guardian for their eldest son. The family has peace of mind knowing who would be next in line to take care of their incapacitated son when they pass away.
Are the services affordable for families?
Families get quality legal services at fair prices (market rate). The program was designed to generate revenue for CCDC, a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities, and its many other services. Families are paying for quality service in return for estate planning, guardianship and more. They are also helping a nonprofit that is out there advocating for the disabled community.