"The Best Laid Plans..." How We Adapt for Loved Ones with Special Needs

by Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C.

Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C.

My doctor assured me that Wednesday in August that all was well and we would be delivering my still-growing boy on schedule in October, and she sent me home to catch up on some well-deserved rest. I saw her again that Friday as I was being prepped for delivery. For no apparent reason, my October baby had no intention of waiting.  

As I grappled to understand the situation, my thoughts whipsawed from total panic to something more zen. The hospital staff did all they could to turn things around, but at a certain point, their efforts shifted from me to focus on my son who was determined to be born that day.

In this haze, I recalled a line that is commonly paraphrased from the poem "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns1, "The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry," and I laughed out loud. It was not the first time that a remnant of my background as an English major appeared out of nowhere, but at that moment, the irony was immense. No one in my team of physicians, as brilliant and capable as they were, would have guessed that our best-laid plans would be so upended that day. 

But, nevertheless, we adapt. At work, I'm an attorney who advises families seeking to protect their legacies and plan for future generations – I help my clients adapt all the time. Bumps in the road like death, divorce, illness, substance abuse, or financial hardship can cause a plan to shift, sometimes suddenly and these events are even more stressful when a family member has special needs.

In a recent case, the family did everything right to protect their loved one with special needs. They created and funded a special needs trust and named a family member and a corporate entity as co-trustees. They even made sure there were support systems in place, other than the trust, to add an increased level of care and protection of their loved one. But there was one part of the best-laid plan that no one saw coming – a breakdown in the relationship between the family member trustee and the beneficiary.

When the beneficiary of the special needs trust resisted the family member trustee's degree of control (which is required in this type of trust), the trustee became more rigid and resentful. After all, the trustee was only trying to help! But the damage was done, and the situation became more tense and unmanageable by the day. After all attempts to reconcile had failed, it appeared they were at an impasse. Divisive litigation to remove this trustee was one option, but not one we wanted to use. So we went back to the drawing board, the trust document itself, and searched for alternatives.

Thankfully, this best-laid plan had some built-in adaptability, unlike some trust documents that are not so flexible. This particular special needs trust provided for the appointment of a trust protector who was there to assist with just this type of problem. The trust protector holds the authority to appoint a co-trustee, which it did, and the addition of that third co-trustee effectively neutralized and diffused the actions of the trustee. The beneficiary's fears were calmed, and the trustee was no longer the "bad guy." In implementing this solution, hurt feelings were given time and space to heal. The trustee and the beneficiary now have a restored relationship – and a wonderfully working trust!

Accepting that circumstances change and adapting quickly are a part of my life – both as a parent of a very active four-year old son and as a part of the team at Chambliss. Our team knows that the best-laid plans need to be adaptable. As we work through new developments in the lives of our clients, our estate planning documents are examined regularly and fine-tuned to address their ever-changing needs. Even a special needs trust with its required restrictions and "structure" can be made more effective with our creative expertise. All trust documents are not created alike. Here, we continuously update our trust documents to be as innovative and flexible as possible.

If you have a trust that may not fit your needs like it once did, take the time to review it. The best-laid plans do not have to go awry!


1 "To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough," by Robert Burns, November, 1785.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C.

Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.