Uncertainty over the future of state help for people with disabilities is prompting an increasing number of parents of disabled children to seek legal advice over their wills and estate planning, according to a specialist solicitor.

John-Paul Dennis, partner and head of private client at law firm Kirwans, said that the recent scrapping of disability living allowance (DLA) has left parents with disabled offspring terrified about the future of their dependants should the worst happen.

No new adult claims  
Around 3.2 million working-age adults in the UK receive DLA at an annual cost of £13 billion. From April 8 the personal independent payment (PIP) has begun to replace DLA.

Since then, no new DLA claims can be made in parts of the North of England, while for the rest of the UK new claims can only be made until June 10.

Up to 500,000 disabled people will be left worse off as a result of the change to PIP, according to The Tipping Point, a report by The Hardest Hit, a coalition of disabled people’s charities and organisations

Focus hard on financial affairs  
“Parents of vulnerable or disabled children understandably worry about the fate of any dependent children after they have gone. They will do everything they can to provide for them," said Dennis.

“Welfare reforms are making people focus hard on their financial affairs and those of any dependants whether they are still children or grown-up. We are seeing an increase in enquiries about how a person can best protect a dependant with a disability.”

Steps to protect children
Despite worries over the changing welfare system, there are still steps that parents can take to protect children who depend on them, Dennis added.

"Money or property left in a will offers some protection but these can actually cause further problems for vulnerable or disabled children unless safeguards are put in place.

"It is important to strike a balance between a loved one enjoying the benefit of any family inheritance from your estate and ensuring they continue to get the means-tested state support that they will need. The type of will needed is not always a straightforward one and it is sensible to fully discuss the options available."

Kirwans offers the following points for parents to consider when planning their will:
• Does your dependent child currently receive state benefits?
• Will you leave an estate more than £15,000?
• Would you like your child to remain in your home after you have passed away?
• Are you a widow or widower yourself?
• Do you have other children who will be able to care for and deal with the financial affairs of your dependent child?
• Is there a family member or friend who will be able to take your place as guardian and protector?
• Are you satisfied that all legal authorities required are in place for someone to look after your dependent child?
• Do you understand how leaving assets directly to your dependent child can affect their benefit entitlement?

For more information visit www.kirwanssolicitors.co.uk