Special Needs Planning
Families with members who have special needs face many unique challenges. While parents and loved ones may have many concerns, the most common issue for the parents is what will happen to the child with special needs once the parents are gone. Our team of financial professionals, with the help of the family and outside professionals, create person-centered plans with the goal of alleviating the many concerns the family may have. We aim to help families safeguard their child’s eligibility to means tested government benefits by utilizing estate planning, special needs trusts and insurance planning to attempt to achieve this. It is our intention to create the best possible outcome for the individual with special needs while taking care of the goals and wishes of the family with the resources that are available.
Our CFP® Professionals adhere to a Fiduciary Standard in all financial planning engagements. This means we always put you and your family's best interests above our own. Our team has over ten years of experience working in the life care planning industry, this experience has helped us develop a process that we follow when creating a special needs plan.
In our initial meeting, we discuss the child with special needs’ wants and desires in life and what type of care the parents would like their child to receive once they pass or are no longer capable of caring for the child. We aim to define clear goals for the plan, set expectations for the relationship, and define the responsibilities of both parties so that everyone knows their role in the process. We begin to gather relevant data that is needed to build the plan and have the parents or guardians start to think about the letter of intent. This letter will accompany your will and give the next care giver detailed information about your child and how to care for them the way you care for them.
You will then meet with a certified Life Care Planner who will estimate the financial support needed to care for the child for the entirety of their life. The first step the Life Care Planner must take is to assess the child and their diagnoses. This will help them determine what sort of care will be needed in the near and distant future. To do this, the planner will typically need to study the child’s medical charts as well as interview their doctors. Interviewing the child and their family members – or other care givers – will also help determine what they expect for their care and what they are reasonably able to do, both physically and financially.
The next step in our process is to meet with an estate attorney. The attorney will review the family’s current legal documents. If the family has not done any estate planning or the documents are not properly drafted, the attorney will draft new legal documents. After a discussion to understand the family needs, the attorney will draft a special needs trust that can be created either during the life of the parents or upon the death of one or both parents. The attorney will ensure proper titling in all financial and legal documents, as well as trace all asset flows from estate and insurance benefits at the death of one or both parents. These are necessary steps to safeguard the child’s eligibility to receive means tested government benefits.
Once all the necessary data is gathered our team will begin to build the special needs plan for the family. The plan will consist of two financial plans; one plan for the parents/family and one plan for the child with special needs. The family plan will assess retirement for the parents, examine the adequacy of health, life, disability, and long term care insurance, summarize the estate planning, and determine how much support the parents can provide to the child with special needs without neglecting other family members. The child’s plan will consist of the life time estimate for financial support, a strategy to structure the family’s financial assets to meet the income and asset limits of SSI, Medicaid, and other means tested government benefits, and a plan to fund and administer the special needs trust. Both plans will have recommendations that we believe will increase the family’s chances of accomplishing their goals.
During the planning process, affordability of care can be a big problem for many families. Our team works with the families to search for available resources to fill the gaps in care that they cannot afford, but are necessary for the child to reach their full potential.
All plans are monitored and reviews are held at least annually with the family. The number of updates per year depends on the needs of every family. Financial planning for your family and child with special needs is not a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing process throughout the life of you and your child. Meetings with all family members, friends of the family, and care givers, who may want to help support the child financially, are very important. Our team will take the time to educate them on the proper way to give support without affecting the child’s eligibility to government benefits.