As families plan for the secure future of a loved one with autism, it is commonplace that the plan is updated due to changes in the family situation or in the life of the individual with the diagnosis. For example:
- If your loved one begins working, the new income will need to be factored into future planning, and the changes that brings to government benefit qualification must also be factored in.
- Living in the community versus with family members will change the financial need, and the plan must be adjusted.
- A future chosen guardian is now no longer able to serve as guardian due to their own situation, which necessitates a change to the guardian choice.
- A Corporate Trustee for the Special Needs Trust changes trust minimums and how they accept new trust accounts, and your family no longer qualifies under the new rules. This means the family must change their trustee choice.
- Parents have to move from area because of job change.
- Parents have additional health care needs themselves that must be considered.
I am sure you can think of even more.
Not only does family life move fast and change come swiftly, but so does the macro-landscape. It is the changes in the macro-landscape that families must keep abreast of because it is these changes that many times will require a change to the individual family plan. For example, there have been significant adjustments in choices in the past three years when it comes to planning for the future as well as others that continue to be discussed:
- ABLE accounts are now available as savings tools for individuals with disabilities. These accounts also come with certain rules that need to be understood so that families are not surprised at a later date, and so that these accounts are used properly without making mistakes.
- The Defense Authorization Act now allows a beneficiary of a military pension to be a specific type of Special Needs Trust so that the child of a career US military professional can continue to receive the Survivor pension into this specific Special Needs Trust without negatively impacting his/her qualification for other government benefits.
- Under a law passed at the end of 2016, an individual under the age of 65 with a disability under can create his/her own Special Needs Trust. Previously, Special Needs Trusts could only be created by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or the court. This again allows additional flexibility, especially if an adult with a disability who is his/her own guardian receives an inheritance that would cause them to lose his/her necessary government benefits. Now he/she has an option to create his/her own Special Needs Trust, transfer the inheritance to the Special Needs Trust, and save his/her life-supporting government benefits.
- HealthCare reform has not been resolved. The discussions continue to include cuts to Medicaid and services to those with disabilities, which would mean major changes to the planning for your loved one. With that in mind, planning should now consider changes to government benefits so that your loved one’s plan and lifetime support needs are still provided for even if government benefits and services are reduced.
When the pace of change is considered, it is critical that families stay on top of these changes or secure a team of specializing professionals that they rely on to keep them informed and keep their plan up to date.
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.™—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 his/her siblings.
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Ryan F. Platt MBA, ChFC, ChSNC is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory, and financial planning through MML Investors Services, LLC, member SIPC. A Special Needs Plan is not subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC, or its affiliated companies. This article is not a recommendation or endorsement of any products.
This article was featured in Issue 68 – ASD Strategies in Action