How Can I Begin Planning for My Special Needs Child’s Future
Question: It is one of my New Year’s Resolutions to assemble a plan for my son’s future, but I have not been able to get started yet. I just don’t know where or how to start. What should my first step be?
I can certainly understand not quite getting started on your New Year’s Resolutions. I am still behind on a couple of mine as well.
So many parents have shared their concerns about the overwhelming process of planning for their child’s future. Here are the questions that we hear most often:
- Do I use a Special Needs Trust? If so, what type do I use? Do I set it up now or when I die? Who should manage the trust when I am gone?
- Do I use an ABLE account instead of a Special Needs Trust, or do I need both?
- Who will care for my child when I am no longer here or if I get sick and am not able to? How do I choose the person? How do I prepare them for the job?
- How do government benefits work? Which ones will my child qualify for? How do I maximize those benefits? How do I ensure my child always keeps them and does not lose them?
- How do I calculate my child’s lifetime financial needs so I know the amount of money I need to leave for them above and beyond government benefits?
- Where will my child live? How much will it cost?
- If grandparents or aunts and uncles want to leave money for my child, how do they do it so it does not interfere with his qualification for government benefits?
- I don’t want to lose excessive money to taxes. How do I design my plan to be tax efficient?
You most likely have more questions than the ones listed above; however, even this list of questions can be paralyzing and can be enough of an obstacle for you to stop the process of planning for your son’s future. As with any area of specialty for your child, whether it is therapy needs, medical needs, or education needs it is normal not to know the answers to these questions; however, just like these other areas of specialty you found a qualified therapist, a qualified physician, and relied on qualified educators to guide you in making informed decisions to help your child. I suggest you do the same in this area of your family’s life.
You can certainly begin to search out professionals in your local area that specialize in Special Needs Planning, unfortunately, planners with this focus are few and far between. You very well may have to look outside of your local area. You can begin by asking other families that you know, and organizations in which you may be a member. We have been told by families that even the process of finding a Special Needs Planner can be a challenge.
In our continuing mission to serve one million families and to help them in creating a plan for their child, we partnered with a father of a son with autism with the same passion, and we developed a website that can help you with all of these questions. It is in this site that we have created a first step that everyone can take to begin their child’s plan, and we will walk you through it (so you do not have to do it alone).
We will help you create your son’s Letter of Intent, which is the instruction manual for your child. It will provide his next caregiver (after you are gone or are not able to care for your son any longer) with the information necessary to continue your son’s daily schedule as well as including information about all his medical needs, therapy needs, developmental stage, people involved in his life, and your future vision for his future. In this way, the next caregiver can continue to care for your son in the way you would like, following in your footsteps.
I know this type of planning can be overwhelming, but taking a small, action-oriented first step will put you on your way to completing a plan that protects and provides for your son! Please feel free to check out the Letter of Intent at www.HowToSecureTheFuture.com
For more information on how to prepare for the future, be sure to contact a financial advisor who specializes in serving families with special needs. A Special Needs Plan is driven by what they call Unleash L.I.F.E.™—L.I.F.E. meaning Lasting Independence For Everyone™. This is accomplished with education, action, and support in the creation, implementation, and continued monitoring of a specifically-designed lifelong and integrated plan for your family of parents, caregivers, your loved one with special needs, and their siblings.
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Charlotte, NC 28210
Ryan F. Platt is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory, and financial planning through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC (www.sipc.org). A Special Needs Plan is not subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or it affiliated companies. This article is not a recommendation or endorsement of any products.
This article was featured in Issue 58 – The Greatest Love of All: Family