Planning for the Future is Essential for Special Needs Families

Special Needs PlanningNo Comments

If you have a special needs child, parent, or sibling then you know that planning for the future can be overwhelming under the best of circumstances; which is why so many parents and caretakers tend to live for today, while planning for tomorrow is always put off until… well, until tomorrow. But if planning and caring for your loved one is this difficult for you, can you imagine how difficult it would be for a friend or guardian if something were to happen to you? For this reason, the importance of planning for the care of your special needs loved one cannot be overstated.

Getting started with your planning can feel like climbing Mt. Everest at first, especially if you’re trying to navigate through government programs and federal financial aid. But as overwhelming as it can be in the beginning, with the right advisors the planning process can and should be a relieving and beneficial experience for all. The following article from CNN Money (and posted courtesy of the Special Needs Alliance) gives a few tips on how—and why—to begin planning for your special needs loved one.

If you would like to have a secure plan for the future but aren’t sure where to begin, perhaps the best way to start is to find an attorney in your area who specializes in Special Needs planning. The laws and requirements for government aid will vary from state to state, but more importantly, there is no substitute for a knowledgeable expert who will listen to your family’s unique story and help you blaze securely into the future.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Guardian for Your Child

Estate Planning, Special Needs PlanningNo Comments

Choosing a guardian for your children is one of the most difficult things you may ever have to do as a parent, and if you have a special needs child the task is even more difficult. From parenting style to living situation to your gut feeling about this person’s ability to love your child as well as you do—there are endless things to consider before you ask the big question.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, MassMutual has published a list of 10 questions for parents to ask themselves when choosing a guardian for their child with autism or special needs.

Although the list is supposed to be for parents of children with special needs, the questions are a helpful road map for any parent, not just parents of special needs children. MassMutual’s ten questions cover issues such as considering how close the person you are considering as guardian currently lives to your child, whether he or she is financially able to assume the responsibility of guardian, and whether you should name a second or third person or couple as backup guardians. These are important questions that all parents should ask themselves before choosing a guardian.

Having children means always planning ahead and thinking about the future, even as you try to live in the present and appreciate the small moments in every day. Nominating a guardian for your children makes it that much easier to focus on the here and now, because in the back of your mind you’ll know that your children will be protected if something happens to you. Let our firm help you achieve that peace of mind.

Filling in the Blanks of Your Estate Plan

Estate Planning, Special Needs PlanningNo Comments

Do feel like there’s more to your children’s inheritance than money? Does your will or trust seem good but… not quite enough?

You’re right. A will and a trust are essential documents to have—especially if you have minor children—but there’s more to protecting your children than those documents. With those documents (plus a nomination of guardian, of course) you’ve provided for your children financially, but what about emotionally? After all, you’ve built a full life for your family and children, one in which they are comfortable and happy. Preserving (as much as possible) the comfort and stability of that life is at least as important as preserving your financial estate.

One of the best ways to do this is with a document called a memorandum of intent. A memorandum of intent is a letter that you write to the guardians of your children. This is a document that details the crucial minutia of your daily life. In it you can express the things that might be considered too small, or the things that change to frequently, to include in your trust—but are essential to the daily fabric of your life:

  • After-school activities
  • Names and phone numbers of your children’s “best friends”
  • Your preferences for religious upbringing
  • Unique holidays and traditions celebrated by your family
  • Pediatrician name and phone number (or other health-care providers)
  • Your discipline style and parenting resources you find helpful
  • Your children’s favorite foods, favorite toys, comfort objects

These things may all seem small right now, but it is these comfortable people, places and activities that will help your children through a difficult transition should tragedy strike. You can’t be sure that you will always be there to guide your children into adulthood, but you can be sure they will always know your hopes and wishes for them.

(*A memorandum of intent is not necessarily just for parents of young children. Memorandums can be especially helpful if you have a special needs child or are the caretaker of an elderly parent. Some people have even chosen to leave memorandums of intent along with a pet trust to the caretakers of their pets.)

Plan Ahead to Secure the Future of Your Special Needs Child

Special Needs PlanningNo Comments

Parents of special needs children know that they need to plan ahead. Depending on what the child’s needs are, that child may live at home and require a caretaker for the rest of his life. What that means is that parents of special needs children need to plan not only for the immediate and long-term future—including retirement—but also to provide for the care of their special needs child after they (the parents) have passed away.

Such comprehensive planning, with no real end in sight, can be a huge challenge, as Larry and Patti Altman, parents of a son with spina bifida, well know. As this article by Kara McGuire portrays, the Altmans have been diligent about planning for their own future, the future of their special needs son Josh, and the futures of their other two sons Zach and Max. Although they have always had to take the initiative, the Altmans have not been without help; including the help of an attorney in creating a special needs trust to ensure that Josh’s ability to receive government assistance will never be jeopardized.

The Altmans taken all of the right steps, but the planning and thinking ahead still continues, and may continue indefinitely. Says Altman, “Parents of special-needs children think about their mortality more than parents that don’t have a special-needs child because you do so much for that child and you wonder ‘Who would do this stuff if I’m not here?’ “

The Best Way to Help the Special People in Your Life

Estate Planning, Special Needs PlanningNo Comments

Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles often come into our offices to make estate plans, and one of the questions they ask is how they can support the people in their lives who have special needs. Special needs can include anything from Autism or Down Syndrome to Paralysis or blindness, and everything in between. Our clients know enough to know that they can’t leave an inheritance outright without jeopardizing their loved one’s financial assistance, but they don’t know exactly how they can help. We always tell them that the only way to leave money to their loved one with special needs is through a special needs trust.

Special needs trusts are not yet well-known, but they are gaining attention among attorneys, financial advisors, and in the mainstream media. In fact, we recently found this very helpful article about special needs trusts on an online news source. The article explains that a special needs trust can help by paying for things to improve quality of life that the government will not generally pay for; things such as cultural events, travel to stay in touch with family, computer and media equipment and books.

The article mentions parents setting up special needs trusts for their young children, but a special needs trust does not have to be so limited. It is true that it must be established by a parent or grandparent, but a special needs trust is not limited to just minor children. It can be established for an adult of any age, and anybody can contribute to the trust.

A special needs trust can mean the difference between living an enriched life and barely getting by. If you have someone in your life with special needs, inquire about a special needs trust as a way to leave an inheritance, it could make a world of difference.

New Website May Help Caregivers Breathe a Sigh of Relief

Elder Law, Special Needs PlanningNo Comments

If you provide care for an elderly relative or a special needs child you know how much work is involved in just getting away for an afternoon or evening, let alone planning for their care if you were to pass away. First you have to find a caregiver qualified to handle your charge’s more demanding needs, then there are lists upon lists of “what if” situations, a strict regimen of prescription medicines, and of course all of the little quirks and routines that must be strictly followed. And after all that, just when you feel comfortable leaving your loved one in the care of someone else… your “babysitter” moves away and you have to go through it all again.

What if there was a way that you could not only keep a record of all details, regimens and instructions, but also an easy way to update and communicate that information to any and all caregivers when anything changed? And would it be too much to ask to have this record somehow linked to all the latest research, resources and best-practice recommendations? Apparently it is not too much to ask, because this is exactly what the new online service, CareGiver360®, claims to provide.

CareGiver360® is the brainchild of Ken Ziel, father of a special needs son, who worried about what kind of life his son would have if anything were to happen to Ken. After much research, Ken started CareGiver360®, “an easy to use, interactive Web service that lets you create a secure Personalized Care Guide to help you manage the care of your loved one. CareGiver360® provides a wealth of caregiving resources through its searchable online library. You can draw upon this valuable resource to supplement your personal experience to create a customized, comprehensive care guide.”

CareGiver360® is a fairly new tool, but it sounds so good one has to wonder why nobody came up with the idea before. We would love to provide our clients and readers with helpful reviews, so if you’ve used the service please leave a comment letting us know how it worked for you. And we ought to mention that the service isn’t free, but at just under $10/month it’s probably not going to break the bank either.