Special Needs Planning - Make it Special

Today, March 21, 2014 is World Down Syndrome Day.  I thought it would be a good day to revisit the subject of special needs planning.  Often “special needs planning” devolves into "poverty planning” - how do we impoverish our son or daughter so they do not lose needed government assistance?  Special needs planning can be so much more!  While each individual is unique there are certain questions that should be addressed:

  1. Will your child’s disability create a need for a guardian/conservator when your child turns 18?
  2. If yes, how much control can your child be given to manage his/her own affairs?
  3. Will your child benefit from the creation of a special needs trust to provide assets for your child’s care in excess of what may be available from Medicaid or other such programs?   It is important to plan for a beneficiary with special needs. Unlike other beneficiaries, a person with special needs may never be able to compensate for a failure to plan.
  4. Who will be responsible for providing care for your child when you are no longer able to do so?

One document I encourage my clients to prepare is a Memorandum or Letter of Intent to communicate and document your preferences regarding the care of your special needs child.  Only you know all that you do and all that is involved in caring for your child.  The Letter of Intent can provide helpful information to those that follow that is unique to your child about:

  • Case managers, care providers, physicians, therapists and the like.
  • Financial support.
  • Living arrangements
  • Programs and services
  • Personal preferences for grooming, food, recreation, etc.
  • Abilities and level of independence.

No one can replace you in caring for your special needs child, but a little planning can go a long way toward making his or her experience after you are gone so much easier.