How to Plan for Your Special Needs Child’s Legal and Financial Future
The holiday season is officially upon us, and our calendars are even busier than normal (which is hard to believe!). I know that the holiday season brings a great deal of joy, happiness, family time, and stress. It can also bring with it a time for reflection, reflection on the year that has passed, and an eagerness for the year ahead. It is a time for making resolutions and plans. One of the resolutions that I hear quite often is, “I am going to assemble a plan so that my child’s future is secure, especially if I die.” Unfortunately, that statement can bring with it a feeling of being overwhelmed, which paralyzes many from taking any action.
Parents want to take care of their children the best way they can, and involving a child with autism means assembling plans to care for the child even when Mom and Dad no longer can. Just the thought of that can be terrifying! It is not a situation that parents want to imagine because we can’t imagine anyone doing as good of a job as us, and caring the way we do. Parents don’t have to think of planning in that way any longer. You don’t need to think of it as a daunting, overwhelming task that just needs to get done. Change your perspective and view it as an opportunity to take a step towards a secure future for your child. When parents see planning as another avenue to secure their child’s future and financial independence, it becomes just another arrow in the quiver, another resource and tool to use in helping a child become the best version of him or herself. Special Needs Planning viewed in this way is now the same as securing a great educational environment, the best medical treatment, the most appropriate and effective therapies, job training, and acquiring independent living skills. All of these items lead to a more secure future for your child, and so does having a properly and correctly designed Special Needs Plan. Planning should be exciting, not daunting.
As you enter the new year, which steps can you take to begin your Special Needs Plan?
1. Create your Letter of Intent
A Letter of Intent will organize all the items another person needs to care for your child. It will include family history, medical history, current therapies, doctors, prescriptions, diagnoses, behaviors, the people involved in his/her life, the people you don’t want involved, the type of living environment that best suits your child, government benefits, organizations that are important to him/her, your hopes and dreams for your child, as well as the child’s hopes and dreams, and more. It provides the next caregiver (after you) a history of your child’s life and a roadmap for the future. You can find a template at HowToSecureTheFuture.com
2. Find qualified professionals to help you
This type of planning is complex and involves legal, financial, tax, trust, government benefits, and familial communication, and requires a knowledgeable and experienced professional to guide you. You will find that most professionals who are considered special needs planners will be financial planners and/or attorneys. As you research, you can ask your network of fellow parents if they have started this type of planning and who they relied on for help. Please know that special needs planners are few and far between, and you may have to work with someone outside of your local area. Please continue your research online by searching for special needs planning, reviewing websites, and calling those organizations. Ask to schedule a phone call with one of their planners for a complimentary conversation. It is in this conversation that you will determine if this company can help you answer most, if not all, of your questions, and be able to assemble a living plan for your family and your loved one. Please feel free to visit our website at aspecialneedsplan.com to request our “Interviewing Professionals” question sheet.
3. Hire a professional special needs planner to guide you
The planner you choose should have a very specific process that you will work though with him or her, which will result in a plan with action steps that will provide answers to your questions. This plan should relieve your sense of being overwhelmed, as well as give you a feeling of excitement about your future as well as your loved one’s future.
The holidays are a wonderful time of year. Please allow yourself time to reflect on your family, your loved one with autism, and the future for you both…then take action to secure that future.
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 is called 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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This article was featured in Issue 69 – The Gift of Calm This Season