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Creating A Special Needs Trust Is Easier Than You Think

Special Needs Trust, Attorney, Georgia, Atlanta, Duluth, Jeyaram & AssociatesWe all know putting into place a will and special needs trust is extremely important to help protect our special needs child now and in the future.

But with all the doctors appointments, therapies, calls to the insurance company and specialists, school work and not to mention laundry, bath time and meal preparation, finding the time to put into place a will and special needs trust seems impossible.

On most days, we’re lucky if we get to drink our cup of coffee while it’s still lukewarm. (I know I gave up the hope of drinking hot coffee a long time ago!)

No, Really. It’s Easier Than You Think

However putting into place a special needs trust really is easier than you think, and the process simply starts with a phone call or an email. Seriously. A phone call or email. That’s it.

When you call us, we’ll get your name and email address and then you’ll receive a questionnaire to complete. Don’t worry – it’s not like applying for a home loan or taking the SAT. And the good news is, you’ll already know most – if not all – of the answers.

Seriously, we ask things like your name, address, your child’s name and disability, a list of your assets, and whom you’d like to take care of your child if something were to happen to you.

No Right Or Wrong Answers

Most of these are answers we can recite in our sleep. No prep needed and there are no right or wrong answers. Further, don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers or if you have questions (like whom you should name as your child’s guardian). We’re here to help you, and we will guide you through the process to ensure that the special needs trust best meets your family’s needs.

Once you complete the form, I’ll review it and follow up with you if I have any questions. And then, a draft of your will and the special needs trust is created and sent to you to review.

We’re Here To Help You

We know you’re busy and adding one more thing to your “to-do” list seems daunting. But setting up a special needs trust is an important legal document to help protect your family and child with special needs. My email address is or you can call me at 678.325.3872. And when you come to the office to sign your will and special needs trust, I’ll have a hot cup of coffee waiting for you. 🙂

How To Choose A Trustee

Trustee, Trust, Will, Estate Planning, Attorney, Lawyer, Jeyaram, Georgia, AtlantaWhen you set up a trust to protect your assets and finances, one of the most important decisions you will make is who will serve as your trustee.

The trustee (or trustees) is someone who will manage your money and property if you become incapacitated (living will) or for the benefit of others after you pass.

The trustee has a lot of authority, so it’s important to select someone you not only trust and have great confidence in, but also:

  • Makes smart financial decisions
  • Is responsible
  • Can meet deadlines (ex. paying bills on time and filing taxes)
  • Has a healthy relationship with your family
  • Is good at communicating as many decisions and ongoing conversations will need to occur.

Trustees are most often a family member or an institution. Following are some benefits and disadvantages to both:

Family Member

Perhaps the biggest benefits of selecting a family member as a trustee is that they may not charge you a fee to be the trustee and most likely, they have a good understanding of how your family works and what it needs.

However, on the flip side, if you choose a family member to be the trustee it could lead to conflict or resentment especially if there is a separate guardian involved for a minor child or disabled adult. Further, the family member may not have financial prowess and may need to hire someone to help them.

Finally, the family member could become incapacitated, get divorced or pass away. As a result, if you select a family member as a trustee, it’s important to name a successor trustee.

An Institution

If you choose a bank or financial institution as the trustee, there is stability (it most likely won’t die) and more likely financial acumen than a family member. The bank can handle any investments, tax preparations, management, and accounting of the trust’s finances. Further, the bank is regulated by federal laws and uninvolved in family politics.

The downside of naming a bank or financial institution as a trustee is cost. Sometimes banks have a minimum fee. This may make banks cost-prohibitive for small trusts. Further, while the bank may not die, employees at the bank can change frequently making it difficult to build relationships.

Still Not Sure?

Choosing the right trustee is an important decision and can be stressful as there are many factors to consider. However, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine whether a family member or an institution will be the best choice for you based on your wants and family’s needs.

We’re Here To Help

DJ Jeyaram is an experienced estate planning attorney who specializes in helping families create trusts – including identifying the best trustee – to meet their needs and situations.

You will work directly with DJ in creating a will or trust that reflects your family. DJ can be reached at or 678.325.3872.

How To Address Your Adult Child’s Substance Abuse Issues In Your Will

Addiction Substance Abuse Trust Wills Estate Planning Jeyaram AssociatesWhen we start to think about the future for our adult children who struggle with addiction, we worry about their financial and overall well-being.

We want to help them be financially secure after we are gone, but we also want to make sure they are responsible with any inheritance they receive.

This is where setting up a trust and a designated trustee as part of your will can help protect your child.

It’s Important To Set Up A Trust & Trustee

If your adult child has a history of addiction or is unable to make responsible financial decisions, leaving them an inheritance without any kind of guidance or protections could lead to further challenges.

By creating a trust and designating someone to manage assets (a Trustee), you are putting into place protections to help your child from others – including creditors and sometime from themselves. Following are a couple of trusts that may be useful when leaving assets to someone with addiction challenges.

Trusts With Incentives

Trusts can be designed to include incentives such submitting to random drug tests in order to receive some of the assets or that the trust will match dollar for dollar for any earned income.

However, structuring a trust like this should be carefully considered as it could prevent your child from receiving any support despite perhaps their best attempts to beat their addiction.

In addition, money may not be the incentive your child needs to try to modify his or her behavior.

Wholly Discretionary Trusts

If your child has a severe addiction or a history of being financially irresponsible, a Wholly Discretionary Trust may be the best choice. With this trust, the Trustee maintains control over all finances and you can specifically direct how the funds will be used.

For example, funds may be used for tuition or rent (paid directly to a landlord) or medical expenses. This trust helps ensure that the money a child receives does not negatively contribute to their addiction.

Selecting A Trustee

A Trustee is someone you name in your trust to manage the assets you want to pass on to your child. Selecting the right Trustee is perhaps one of the most important decisions regarding setting up the trust.

We often recommend NOT choosing someone in your family as this can create conflict and ultimately lead to estranged relationships. Instead, we recommend selecting an independent person or a corporate trustee.

We’re A Part Of Your Team

Regardless of whether you want to set up a straight-forward trust, one with structured incentives, or a trust with restrictions, the trust should include a Trustee to manage it.

Dealing with a child’s challenges with substance abuse can be emotionally exhausting, financially draining and outright overwhelming.

We’re here to help you figure out the best approach for setting up your will and trust for you child. You don’t have to have all the answers when you meet with us.

We’re here to help you create a plan that best meets your wishes and your family’s circumstances. I can be reached at or 678.325.3872.

Do Your Loved Ones Know What You Want If You Become Incapacitated? Do You?

will trusts estate planning incapacitatedSpecial blog post by Cassandra Jeyaram, PhD

The week before Thanksgiving, my 90-year-old grandfather passed away at his home. I am so thankful I was able to spend his last few days, hours and minutes with him.

Although he was incapacitated and could not talk, open his eyes or move his body, he knew I was there. I talked to him about his hometown of Winooski, Vermont, played his favorite CDs and told him some bad jokes, at which he managed a half smile on several occasions.

I shared with him how he taught me how to ice skate, fish (and subsequently get a fishing hook out of my belly button) and how to eat watermelon. I rubbed his feet, held his hands, and tried to make sure he was as comfortable as possible.

This Is An Important Conversation To Have With Loved Ones

It was during these last few precious moments with my grandfather that I realized I had never thought about what I would want during my final moments if I were incapacitated. Being incapacitated is something my family never discussed. Although it’s a conversation no ones like to have, it’s an important one.

Upon returning home after my grandfather’s passing, my husband and I sat down to update our wills and document in detail what we both wanted if we were incapacitated.

I would love a view of nature, classical music gently playing in the background and soft blankets. We also wrote down that if someone became upset while visiting me, they would be asked to leave the room. I know my heart would break hearing/seeing/feeling someone I love upset. I included this as I watched my grandmother sobbing over my grandfather with her tears falling on his face.

I can only imagine the heartbreak both of them were feeling after being married 69 years. I could sense my grandfather was holding on for my grandmother and only when my grandmother peacefully fell asleep on the couch next to him did he finally let go.

Some Things To Think About

When we think about “Estate Plans,” we often only think about our wills and what happens if we die. But an important part of our estate plans are our wishes of what we would want to hear, see or feel if we are incapacitated. Some things to consider are, where do you want to be? At home? In a hospital? What sounds or sights would you like? Do you have a favorite CD? Movie? Do you want your pet to be with you? Who would you like to visit you?

While these questions are not exhaustive, they are designed to help you to start thinking about your wishes if you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate. There are no right or wrong answers. It’s what you want.

As I look back on my grandfather’s life and this post, I realize my grandfather taught me many things, including that I need to communicate and document my final wishes.

Documenting Your Final Wishes

If you’d like help with your final wishes, DJ can help guide you through the process and make sure they are a part of your will or estate plan. He can be reached at 678.325.3872 or


How To Obtain Guardianship For Your Special Needs Child

Guardianship Attorney GeorgiaIn many states, including Georgia, as soon as your special needs child turns 18, he or she becomes a legal adult and is assumed to be able to make decisions on their own behalf unless a court determines otherwise.

However, if you determine that retaining guardianship over your child once he or she turns 18 is in your child’s best interest, here’s how you do it. (See related post: Is Guardianship The Right Choice When Your Special Needs Child Turns 18?)

Start Planning BEFORE Your Child Turns 18

Requesting guardianship can be a lengthy and involved legal process. In order to retain guardianship of your child, you need to have the court appoint you as your child’s guardian.

To make sure there is not a gap in your child’s guardianship when he or she turns 18, it’s important to prepare your petition to the court well in advance of your child’s 18th birthday. If there is a gap in guardianship (i.e. your child turns 18 before you have guardianship) and a decision needs to be made about your child’s health or legal rights, it could cause some serious problems.

Step-By-Step Process

  • Every state’s guardianship laws differ slightly and the process can be daunting. This is where hiring an attorney to help guide you through the process is beneficial.
  • There are several forms you will need to complete, including forms that will need to be completed by a qualified physician to evaluate your child.
  • Once you submit the forms, your child will need to appear in court with you. As much as possible, you will want to help your child understand the process and what to expect in advance of actually appearing in court.
  • The court will appoint a representative for your child to help determine the merits of your claim that your child is not competent to act on his or her own behalf and that guardianship is in fact the right choice. The representative will most likely want to meet and visit with your child. In addition, in some circumstances, the representative may visit your child at home.
  • Finally, you will need to attend a hearing with your child. At this point, the judge will review and determine if your child is incapacitated and, if so, to what extent he or she requires assistance. Further, the judge will then decide if the person petitioning for guardianship will be appointed as guardian.

Some Things To Consider 

  • You and your spouse or significant other can petition the court to share guardianship. You will become co-guardians.
  • If your child’s need are complex, you can request that a non-profit agency or public or private corporation serve as your child’s guardian.
  • Guardianship may not be the right solution for your child. There are alternatives such as conservator or limited guardianship that give your child more independence.

Once You Are Awarded Guardianship

The paperwork doesn’t stop once you’re awarded guardianship. Every year you will need to file detailed reports about your child’s finances and overall well being. In some states, guardians must also provide proof that they’ve made adequate residential arrangements as well as provided appropriate healthcare services.

If the guardian cannot prove that they have adequately provided for their adult ward, then the court can remove the adult ward and name a different guardian.

Getting Started

As a parent of a special needs child and an attorney with extensive experience with legal issues relating to special needs children, I can help you navigate the complex guardianship process. or 678.325.3872.

7 Reasons Why Online Wills Aren’t The Smartest Choice

Wills Trusts and Estates Attorney GeorgiaGroupon is currently running an ad for 79% off online wills for individuals or couples. The company offering the promotion through Groupon says the online Web site creates wills “in just minutes.” Just “minutes” to map out and protect your assets and document your legacy? What?

Writing a will is NOT something that should be done in a matter of mere minutes. It’s something that should be given careful thought and consideration. The process of writing your will most likely take a couple of hours.

Why Online Wills Are Not The Smartest Choice

Writing a will should be done under the legal guidance of an established estate planning attorney and here are 7 reasons why:

• Online wills provide you with generic “one-size-fits-all” documents that are not tailored to your specific needs. Your life is not a one-size-fits-all. Why should your will be?

• Experienced estate planning attorneys can create personalized plans for you based on a vast array of estate planning tools that “do-it-yourself” online wills do not consider.

• When partnering with a lawyer, you are able to include specific details and information that the online forms do not allow you to include due to space limitations or lack of fields on the forms.

• Online will services also try to “up sell” customers through the process – the low cost offer is often a “hook” for more expensive packages. Almost all estate planning attorneys offer an upfront, flat fee for their wills.

• As your life situations change, your lawyer can easily help you update and change your legal plan as needed so that it to best protects your loved ones and assets. Online forms cannot do this.

• An attorney will keep your will in a locked safe. Online sites always have the potential for being hacked and your personal information compromised.

• An attorney will help you identify ways to minimize your tax liabilities upon your passing. Online will services typically do not provide this feature.

Easier For Your Family

Once your will needs to be executed, your family will need to hire a lawyer. By engaging a lawyer now to assist you with writing a will or estate plan, you are helping your family later as your family will not need to find an attorney to execute your will and they will already be familiar with your attorney.

Protecting Your Loved Ones

When it comes to protecting your family and assets, we recommend investing in the process of writing your will and partnering with an attorney to prevent any future headaches or heartaches. A will is a “living” document that’s designed to protect those you love most, and it deserves more than a generic form that can be completed in minutes. Your life is not generic – neither should your will.

We Can Help

We’re here to help. Our attorneys have extensive experience with helping individuals, families and families with special needs children create legal plans that best protect their assets and their loved ones.

Contact DJ Jeyaram at or 678-325-3872.


If Your Child Has Autism, Make Sure These 4 Things Are In Your Will

Autsim Will & Special Needs Trust

Although everyone should have a will, as parents of special needs children, we need wills to ensure that our kids are well cared for and have a good quality of life after we pass.

My son has a dual diagnosis of Autism and Williams Syndrome. Here are four things I recommend all parents of children with Autism – or any special needs – include in their wills or estate plans.

1) A Special Needs Trust – A will is a basic legal document that details your last wishes and is often used to distribute your property or assets.

However, a basic will does not include provisions that are needed to protect and provide for your special needs child. This is where a Special Needs Trust comes into play. A Special Needs Trust can be a part of your will or it can be a stand-alone document. It allows you to designate and qualify your assets in a way that doesn’t penalize your child when it comes to his or her public benefits.

Eligibility for many government benefits is determined based on the resources your child or adult ward holds in his or her name. If your special needs child has too many resources, even by just one dollar, he or she may not qualify for, or may even lose, benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Even if your child does not currently receive government assistance, he or she may need it in the future.

A special needs trust is a way to protect your loved one’s current resources and future benefits. Through a special needs trust you can leave assets to your child or ward without negatively impacting his or her government benefits.

2) Designated Guardian – We often assume that a member of our family – maybe a sister or our own mother – will automatically be given custody of our children if something happens to us. However, this is not true unless you have a will, trust or estate plan in place that specifically names them as guardians.

Without a legal plan in place, anyone can request custody and a judge will decide with whom your child/children will live with. Choosing a guardian is perhaps one of the most difficult decisions to make. It’s important to choose someone you trust and who will respect your wishes for your child(ren).

Things to consider when selecting any child’s guardian are the guardian’s age, his or her family values, parenting style, character, willingness to serve as guardian and whether he or she already has an established relationship with your child.

With a special needs child there are even more considerations. Think about the traits that you, as a special needs parent, need to raise your child and does the guardian have these traits?  My top three traits for special needs guardians are 1) Energy; 2) Patience; and 3) The ability to advocate for my child. (See Related Post: 10 Tips On Choosing The Right Guardian)

3) Guardianship Letter & Instructions –  Once you’ve selected a guardian, you need to put them in a position to succeed if they are forced to step into your shoes. You should write instructions to the guardian about things they will need to know on how to parent your child.

Include things like your child’s routines, medicines, information about his or her medical providers, how to deal with sensory meltdowns, what is the best way to get them to eat or sleep. Simple things like their favorite stuffed animal that they need to go to sleep with at night or where they like to hide their favorite sippy cup or the name of their favorite YouTube videos are small details – but they are of big importance to our children.

We’ve had years to learn these things about our kids. Help your child’s guardian avoid having to learn from experience by documenting what you already know!  (See Related Post: How To Create A Successful Care Plan For Your Child’s Guardians)

By painstakingly detailing your routines and including details about what makes your child comfortable or happy in your care plan, you are setting your guardians up for success and for a smooth transition in case something were to suddenly happen to you and your spouse.

4) Conservator or Trustee – A conservator or trustee is someone to handle all financial decisions related to your child. A conservator helps ensure that money left to your special needs child is used for your child in ways that best benefit  your child.

Often times families ask me if their child’s designated guardian should also be the conservator or trustee. It depends. Your guardian can serve as both, but sometimes families prefer set up some up checks and balances by selecting different guardians and conservators. It’s important to select someone you trust and who will make smart financial decisions on your child’s behalf.  The guardian and the conservator work together in the best interest of your child.

Getting Started

As a parent of a special needs child and an estate planning attorney, I understand the challenges of adding one more thing to your plate. However, putting into place a will to protect your child with special needs is something we all need to do sooner rather than later – just in case.

We’ll walk you through the will planning process step-by-step. Initial consults are free.  We want to help you create a legal plan that best protects your child with special needs as well as your final wishes for your entire family. I can be reached at or 678.325.3872.


How To Ensure Proper Care For Our Fuzzy Children In Our Wills

Will Pet Trust

When we think about creating a will or trust, we think about things like our checking or savings accounts, our family heirlooms and if we have children, how we want them to be cared for when we pass.

However, one of the most important – and often overlooked – parts of preparing for our futures is making sure our fuzzy loved ones are cared for too.

And while pets are legally and technically considered – “property” – as pet owners, we know that they mean so much more to us than just being “property.” They are our companions and a big part of our families.

Leaving our pets’ fate unknown and the thought of having them possibly sent to a shelter is unthinkable. This is where legally documenting our wishes for our fuzzy children is important.

Our Pets Are Family Too!

Traditional wills or trusts treat pets as property. One of the challenges with only including your pet in your will is that it often takes time, sometimes years before the probate process is completed. Your pet will need immediate care. So often we see people dividing their estates purely by percentages. Where does a pet go in that scenario?

When clients want to provide for their fuzzy child, there are a couple of options:

1) Specifically designate who gets ownership of your pet when you pass or

2) Create a Pet Trust. A Pet Trust has benefits beyond simply giving ownership of your pet to someone else.

Pet Trusts can be created in your will or be valid while you are alive and can be implemented if you were to become ill and unable to care for your fuzzy child.  A Pet Trust also allows you to allocate funds that can only be used for your pet’s care.  When we see animals go to a shelter in probate situations, many times it is because family members are not willing to accept the financial burdens of having a pet, especially an older pet.

Things To Consider For Your Pet’s Future

The Pet Trust allows you to leave specific instructions on how your pet should be cared for and by whom, as well how money set up in a trust should be allocated. Some things to think about when setting up a Pet Trust are:

  • Who would take care of your fuzzy child in a way that makes you comfortable? Does your pet know this person? Would this person honor your wishes?
  • If you have more than one pet, would your pet’s guardian be willing to keep all of your pets together?
  • How much money should you set aside? Think not only about current costs, but how much care your pet may need as he or she gets older?
  • Including detailed care instructions such as your pet’s favorite toys or treats. Is your pet scared of thunderstorms or other animals or small children?

While the thought of leaving behind our loved ones when we pass is painful, it’s important that we think about how we can best provide for them now – and in the future. And as pet owners, we know that our pets are more than just “property” –  they are our family too!

Need Help Getting Started?

Our attorneys specialize in wills and Pet Trusts. Not only do we have extensive experience with wills and Pet Trusts, but we are avid pet lovers too! Contact DJ Jeyaram at or 678.325.3872.


It’s All In The Details – Creating A Successful Care Plan For Your Children’s Guardians

Death isn’t something we like to talk about, but it’s critical to have a detailed plan for your children’s guardians – just in case. Wills, Trusts & Estates

This past week, my parents came to help my wife and I as we prepared for my wife’s upcoming medical procedure. They came early to learn the kids’ routines such as where their school is, what they eat and their bedtime routines.

Most of us don’t really think much about our day-to-day routines. In fact, we just go. We’re pretty much on autopilot. Having my parents come to help me with the kids was a good dry run for if my wife and I were to unexpectedly pass and we needed our children’s guardians to step in and follow the instructions we’ve prepared.

To help us prepare for her procedure, which would leave her out of pocket for a couple of weeks, my wife typed out every little detail about the kids’ days. Or so we thought. When we did a dry run with my parents, we quickly realized that there were several little – but very important details – that we forgot to include in our notes. And it was these details that would make the difference between a smooth and successful day with our kids versus potential meltdowns and a frustrating experience for everyone.

My wife covered the big ones – what time the kids take their medications, how much and how. Who likes what food, how to maneuver through the carpool line for school and what time they go to bed.

What we forgot to include were things like EXACTLY how to cut my son’s peanut butter sandwich. In her directions, my wife said, “Cut the peanut butter sandwich.” But as my parents were making my son’s peanut butter sandwich during the dry run, they asked, “Do you cut it in half? Do you cut it in quarters?” No. Actually, we have to cut his sandwich into quarter-sized bites and we have to cut off the crust. Wow. Something we do automatically. Failure to include that kind of detailed information could have derailed lunch for my six-year-old special needs son who is in feeding therapy and needs small bites of food to be successful with eating.

Next, my wife wrote specific notes about how to pick up our little girl from preschool (we walk in to get her). As my wife did a walk through with my parents, again, she realized she forgot to include some pretty important details such as:

  • Make sure you have a photo ID or the carpool tag to identify yourself when you pick her up
  • As you walk out of the school, you have to hold her hand as she tends to run out into the parking lot (she’s only 2)
  • And that you need sanitize her hands as soon as you get the car as her brother is medically fragile and a two year old’s hands are a magnificent host for germs.

Again, things we just do without even thinking – but that are really important for keeping our kids safe and ensuring a smooth day.

Further, when my special needs son says “Don Clare” he’s not asking for a person. He’s asking for one of his favorite books. To be honest, I didn’t even know this one. We don’t have a book titled, “Don Clare” and none of the books have a character named “Don Clare.” My son has just begun using two to three word sentences and this was his interpretation of the book titled “Bear Snores On.” How my wife figured this out, remains a mystery to me – and it would have remained a mystery to my parents if my wife hadn’t written it down in our notes after my dad asked her what my son was asking for.  

Our kids, like many others, thrive on routine and have favorite objects or TV shows, books or movies. Simple things like their favorite stuffed animal that they need to go to sleep with at night or where they like to hide their favorite sippy cup or the name of their favorite YouTube videos are small details – but they are of big importance to our children and bring them great comfort.

By painstakingly detailing your routines and including details about what makes your child comfortable or happy in your care plan, you are setting your guardians up for success and for a smooth transition in case something were to suddenly happen to you and your spouse.

Need help planning for your children’s future? We can help. Contact DJ Jeyaram at or 678.325.3872.