A Special Need Planning Timeline: 9 Steps to a Sound Family Plan
Step 4 – Establish a Special Needs Trusts
If you are taking the time to read this, you have likely already read somewhere else that a special needs trust (SNT) is a core piece of any special needs plan. These trusts are complicated and should not be drafted by an attorney that does not dedicate a significant portion of their practice to this type of planning. SNT’s have various uses and come in many forms, but, allow me to summarize them the best I can relating to their most common usage. Federal guidelines state that for an individual to qualify for Social Security and various other programs after the age of 18, they cannot have more than $2,000 in assets. For parents to be able to provide ongoing support and care for their child after they are no longer here, the SNT is the preferable way under current law to be able to leave assets behind to their child without jeopardizing these vital benefits.
Step 5 – Adjust Your Existing Financial Plan
Every family, regardless of means, can benefit from a sound financial plan. However, for families with the responsibility of caring for a loved one with special needs, your existing plan simply will not work. That is to say that your plan needs to be different than your neighbors, your relatives and likely quite different than what your existing advisor proposes. Your plan is more complex, consists of more “non-financial” issues than financial, and likely means more to the future health and well-being of your child than most.
Step 6 – Manage the Age 18 Transition
I could write a book on the transition to adulthood for your child, but there are some key decisions to make as your child becomes an adult. It starts with your access to information and your ability to “help” your children make decisions ending. Two key issues come to mind for most families: financial decisions and medical decisions. This leads to the determination as to whether guardianship or some alternative is appropriate for your family. Also, age 18 is typically the age that your child is eligible for Social Security and other benefits based on their financial means instead of Mom & Dad’s. Now add to that the end of high school approaching and you can just imagine the commotion.
Step 7 – Take a Look into the Future
Sound impossible? There is no magic age where a decision has to be made, but eventually parents may have to make some residential decisions with their child. There is not a right age to make a change and there is certainly no single answer, but, it is the parent’s responsibility to help determine what the next step is. That could mean a change while Mom & Dad are still here to manage the process or it might be making a decision for when Mom & Dad no longer are. The conversations won’t be fun and thinking about it won’t be easy, but it is our task to plan for the inevitable.
Step 8 – Develop a Continuity of Care Plan
Someday, the various roles you play for your child may need to be carried on by someone else. Is it reasonable to expect another person or organization to step into that role without you adequately arming them with the necessary information? Who are your child’s physicians and which ones do you not want your child to see again? What medications or therapies should be continued and which ones should not? Are there certain schedules or rituals that should be continued? How about a listing of family, friends and relationships that should be maintained? The list seems endless, but there are tools available to help you organize this information that every family should utilize.
Step 9 – Educate Family and Loved Ones
After you’ve spent countless hours creating a care plan for your child, it is time to educate your support network. This network can consist of other children, family, close friends, church & other organizations. In order for the plan to be carried out as designed, it takes a cohesive network to ensure that the care you want for your child is ultimately provided.
This article was drafted by Heath Burch, CFP, a partner with The Special Needs Planning Center. With offices in Kansas City, Las Vegas and New York the SNPC is currently building a nationwide advisor network solely focused on serving the special needs community.
image courtesy Marzanna Syncerz Photoxpress.com
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