Special Needs Financial Planning Resource Guide

Financial planning for the future can be daunting.  But for families with special needs, financial planning can immediately set off a landslide of additional questions. Planning for your child’s short and long term financial future is a challenging exercise, but one that will create a great deal of peace-of-mind in the long run.

We’ve broken down the process for you to help understand what to look for and expect as you embark on creating your financial plan.

Choosing and Working with a Financial Planner

The first step is to choose a financial planner. When searching for local planners, be sure to look for one with a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) and an AEP (Accredited Estate Planner) designation.  Planners with these certifications will have the knowledge and skills you need to create a customized plan for your family’s unique needs.

Once you choose a financial planner that makes you feel comfortable, begin by looking at your loved one’s current and potential future needs. What type of care or assistance does he or she need currently? How might you expect that to change in the future?  Will your loved one’s disability require surgeries, assistive devices or home modifications? Financially, how will those be handled? Your planner can walk you through all types of scenarios so that you can make informed decisions for your loved one. As you answer those questions, your planner will translate your answers into projected financial needs, such as medical care costs and financial assistance or government benefits.

As difficult as it may seem, the planner will also guide you through the necessary decisions to make in the event of your passing.  Answering questions like, who will care for your loved one or costs that might be associated with a change in living arrangements? You may also want to open the conversation up to family members as well, since it is possible they would play an important role in caretaking.

Your planner will then help you set goals and offer advice on the steps to take now to help you reach financial independence. They will review your current income, assets, expenses and assess your financial expectations, and find out thinks like when and what retirement looks like for you.

At the same time, your planner will also determine how your child with special needs can reach financial independence.  That can often be handled through a special needs trust, either funded at death with a specific bequest or funding during life with a periodic savings plan.  Likewise, your planner will be able to help you navigate an ABLE Account, which is a new tax-free savings account created in 2014 under the ABLE Act.

Another benefit the planner can provide is evaluating the effect your long term planning, for your child with special needs, will have on your children without special needs.  For instance, will you be able to contribute to college funds for your other children?

Of course maintaining your relationship with the planner is important after your plan is created. Regular monitoring and modifications may be necessary as your child’s needs change or as cash flow requirements change.  But with a plan in place, the majority of the heavy lifting is already done.

Choosing and Working with a Special Needs Attorney

Once all your saving and planning strategies have been decided, it’s essential to work with a special needs estate planning attorney.  Attorneys focusing in special needs are legal experts in the provisions required to protect your child’s financial future without affecting his or her benefits. Often times your financial planner can be a great resource to recommend the name of an attorney specializing in special needs estate planning.

Your attorney will work with you to establish a trust and estate plan for your child’s future, as well as ensure you have all the appropriate documents needed, such as a standard will and either a revocable or irrevocable trust.

Person-Centered Planning Tools 

The Arc’s Center for Future Planning is an excellent resource to help you prepare for working with a financial planner and attorney.  Particularly it helps create a person-centered plan, including how to continue daily routines and provide decision making support, as well as determine which family, friends, legal and financial professionals will be part of the team in the event you are no longer able to provide support.

While it may seem overwhelming, keep in mind that we are here to help you navigate everything you need to understand to put your child in his or her best position to learn, grow and thrive.

Questions? Contact Us.

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