Summer Travel Plans? Check this list twice....

Posted by Haddad Nadworny on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

The Special Needs Financial Planning Team  Cynthia Haddad, CFP | John  Nadworny, CFP | Alexandria Nadworny, CFP  We are committed to offering educational workshops to organizations and parent  groups.  Please call Alex or click here to attend a workshop or discuss a presentation  to your group.

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For many families, summer includes going away on vacation. Before you travel, you should do 2 things:

  1. Review the Pre-Trip Checklist from Smarter Travel to be sure you address everyday tasks, secure your home and collect all of the information you might need while you are away. Download the Checklist here.
  2. Have a completed copy of pages 7-12 of your Letter of Intent outlining all of the information someone would need to know about your child with a disability in case of emergency and/or you are not available. You can access a fillable Letter of Intent here.

 

Happy and safe travels!

Tags: special needs Letter of Intent

Year End Planning Tips for Families with Special Needs

Posted by Patty Manko on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 @ 04:40 PM

2013 2014 year end resized 600This is a great time of year to reflect upon what has happened in 2013 and enable you to set goals for 2014. Here are also a few additional planning strategies to consider.

1. Update your Letter of Intent (LOI)

This is a great gift idea too, not only for your child, but for yourself. Many of our client's give an updated copy of their child's LOI at the holidays to each of his/her future caretakers, guardians, and trustees. Keep your LOI up to date and you will have the peace of mind knowing that if anything should happen to you, then you have left a legacy of information and the vision you have for your child's lifetime.  The LOI is the one central place to put all of your child's important information and important people and agencies in his/her life. You can also tell others about daily routines, habits, hygiene, hobbies, preferences of your child, and so much more.  Click here to download a sample LOI.

2. Gifts from Grandparents

Please remember to say thank you first! This is the time of year that gifts of money can be in excess of the $2,000 limits. The annual gift tax exclusion amount is $13,000 for 2012. Unfortunately if given to your child or to an account in his/her name, this gift can jeopardize your child's eligibility for government benefits. Gift giving, if done properly, can be beneficial for everyone. Please contact us if you would like to discuss options for your own financial and estate planning.


3. Gifts to Charities

Don't forget to support the agencies that support your family members. This time of year, most charitable non-profit organizations and agencies are asking for your financial support. They do so to be able to continue to provide the services and supports to your family member. Most donations to these agencies are tax deductible to you. Don't forget to consider any matching gifts from your employer(s). This is our chance to give back and say thank you. If you would like to discuss options of charitable giving techniques for your own personal financial and estate planning, please contact us.

Contact us

We wish all our readers a very happy holiday season.

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Special Needs Trusts, special needs Letter of Intent

Guardianship Considerations for Individuals with Disabilities

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Jul 11, 2013 @ 01:47 PM

describe the imageGuardianship is a legal means of protecting children and  "incompetent adults" (in legal terms, adults who cannot take care of themselves, make decisions that are in their own best interest, or handle their assets due to a physical or mental disability). When the court determines that a person is incapable of handling either their personal or financial affairs a guardian will be appointed.

The subject of guardianship for an adult child with disabilities is of concern to most parents. Parents of children with severe disabilities often assume that they can continue to be their adult child's legal guardian during the child's entire life.

Although it may be obvious to a parent that a child does not have the capacity to make informed decisions, legally an adult is presumed competent unless otherwise determined to be incompetent after a competency proceeding. Once an individual reaches the age of 18, the parent is no longer the individual's legal guardian. Parents need to explore legal options available to protect their child from unscrupulous individuals who may exploit their child's inability to make informed choices.

Download a template for your Letter of Intent

Some things to know when considering guardianship:

a. A guardian of the person is responsible for monitoring the care of the person with disabilities to ensure that the individual is receiving proper care and supervision. The guardian is responsible for decisions regarding most medical care, education, and vocational issues.

b. A guardian of the estate or conservatorship should be considered for a person with disabilities who is unable to manage their finances and have income from sources other than benefit checks, or have other assets and/or property.

c. A guardianship may be limited to certain areas of decision making, such as decisions about medical treatment or medications in order to allow the individual to continue making their own decisions in all other areas.

d. A temporary guardian or conservator may be appointed in an emergency situation when certain decisions must be made immediately.

If an individual with a disability is capable of making some but not all decisions, one or more of the alternatives to guardianship discussed here should be considered. These alternatives to guardianship are listed from least restrictive to most restrictive:

1. A joint bank account can be created to prevent rash expenditures. Arrangements can be made with most banks for benefits checks, such as Social Security or SSI payments, to be sent directly to the bank for deposit. (Remember to keep this account balance below $2,000.)

2. A representative payee can be named to manage the funds of a person with a disability who receives benefits checks from Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or the Veterans Benefits Administration. Benefits checks are sent to the representative payee.

3. A durable power of attorney (POA) for property is a legal document that grants one person the legal authority to handle the financial affairs of another. Generally, the use of a POA should be used when the individual with disabilities has the capacity to make basic meaningful decisions and does not require full guardianship but may not be able to make complex financial decisions without support.

4. A durable POA for health care, also known as a health care proxy, should be considered for individuals who are presently capable of making decisions about their health care and wish to anticipate possibly future incompetence.

5. An appointment of advocate and authorization allows a person with a disability to designate an agent to advocate on his or her behalf with administrative agencies such as the state department of cognitive disability, the department of mental health services, or the department of medical assistance.

6. Trusts may be an appropriate alternative to appointment of guardian in some circumstances. A trust is a legal plan for placing funds and other assets in the control of a trustee for the benefit of an individual with a disability - or even for those with no known disability.

7. As mentioned previously, guardianship is an option for persons who, because of mental illness, developmental disability, or physical disability, lack sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning their care and financial affairs. Guardians are approved and appointed by the court. Guardianships are also supervised by the court. The guardian provides a report on the status of the individual to the court annually.

In general, the guardian or conservator is responsible for handling the individual's financial resources, but is not personally financially responsible for them from his or her own resources.

This list of alternatives to guardianship is not exhaustive, but worth speaking with an attorney about. As with all legal decisions, we suggest you seek legal advice from an attorney who is knowledgeable in disability law in the individual's state of residence.

Contact us for  further information

Tags: Special Needs Trusts, Special Needs Financial Planning, special needs Letter of Intent, guardianship

The Letter of Intent and Your Child

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Jun 20, 2013 @ 03:42 PM

guardianshipThe most important asset your child has is YOU.

Think for a moment about the specific instructions or guidelines you give to your child or his or her caregiver when you leave for just an evening out or a weekend away.Imagine if you never came back. 

Many families need a catalyst to encourage them to begin the planning process. A Letter of Intent simplifies the planning process by initially asking basic biographic information and progresses to more thoughtful and provoking questions. Since developing the Five Factors of comprehensive special needs planning, we have reorganized the content based upon these key elements in planning for your child’s future. By completing a Letter of Intent for your family member, you will begin to develop goals and objectives to assist you in the overall planning process. Ultimately, it will provide the details required for future caregivers to fulfill their expected roles based upon your desires and concerns.

No matter who you have entrusted to care for your child when you are gone—sibling, friend, relative, trustee, guardian, or organization—you can help guide that person by providing them the knowledge that only you, as a parent, possess. This is not a legally binding document, but it is still perhaps one of the most important documents you can prepare for the future well-being of your child. This is an opportunity to leave a legacy of all that you have accomplished with your child.

You need to periodically review and revise this Letter of Intent, perhaps on your child’s birthday, making certain to provide your child’s future caregiver with an updated copy. As every child is unique, so should this document be unique. Feel free to expand where needed and omit areas that are not applicable. Be flexible, be clear, and feel free to make it as personal as you wish.

To download a blank sample Letter of Intent, click on the image below.

describe the image

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Letter of Intent, special needs Letter of Intent, guardianship, Trustee Services

Special Needs Financial Planning featured in FPA paper

Posted by Patricia Manko on Fri, Apr 19, 2013 @ 12:59 AM

Key takeaway: While an SNT is necessary in almost all cases, there is much more to special-needs planning than creating a plan that includes an SNT. A letter of intent—the ideal starting point for the financial planner to inform the financial components within the planning process, and collaboration with mental health and legal professionals—will greatly enhance the effectiveness of the services the financial planner is able to provide special-needs clients.

describe the imageMost special-needs families are not properly planning for their children’s futures and the consequences are potentially catastrophic (Lauderdale et al. 2010). While planning for the future of special-needs loved ones has always been a necessity, it’s paramount today because of the higher incidence of diagnosed disabilities, longer life spans resulting from medical advancements, increasing long-term care costs, and the reduction of government support (Erickson and Lee 2008; Hoyt and Pollock 2003; Lauderdale and Huston 2012b; Nadworny and Haddad 2007; Saposnek, et al. 2005). 

Emotional and legal issues complicate creating an adequate comprehensive plan. Financial advisers can begin to address the concerns particular to each family by forming a team of legal and mental health professionals to work closely with families while preparing a suitable plan. Special needs trusts, or SNTs, remain vital to planning for disabled individuals to protect government benefits eligibility, manage assets, and provide care continuity when guardianship is deemed necessary (Stone 2006). For keeping the social and emotional consequences to a minimum, letters of intent are also valuable tools to help transition care providers with as little stress on the special-needs child as possible. 

Financial planners can increase their accessibility to special-needs families by preparing themselves to address the technical and emotional challenges through a holistic team approach.
While an SNT is necessary in almost all cases, there is much more to special-needs planning than creating a plan that includes an SNT. A letter of intent—the ideal starting point for the financial planner to inform the financial components within the planning process, and collaboration with mental health and legal professionals—will greatly enhance the effectiveness of the services the financial planner is able to provide special-needs clients. 

Though the financial plan for a special-needs family is an amplified form of a traditional plan, the team of professionals is necessary for addressing the social and emotional issues particular to each family. Addressing such concerns directly affects the ultimate form and adoption of the plan designed specifically for families with special-needs dependents.

Tags: Special Needs Trusts, special needs Letter of Intent

Financial Factors in Special Needs Planning

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 @ 03:09 PM

financial factors Starting at a very young age we are taught about the value of money. Throughout our lives we associate the value of money to our life experiences such as paying for our own college education, purchasing a car, buying a house, saving for our own children’s college and our ultimate retirement – in addition to the daily expenses of our desired lifestyle.

Your Family's Financial Values or Standards

It is important to talk about the value of money and what it means to you because you can pass these values on to future caretakers and other family members. How you feel about money can also have an impact upon what you can achieve for your child's future. It does not do any good if you do not share your values of money with others. If parents do not articulate their vision, their financial capacity to achieve their goals and their financial intentions, their vision for their child may not happen. It is important to express your values to your financial advisors, trustees, guardians, and legal advisors, but also to your other family members. These individuals most likely will be the ones to follow through on implementing the plan that you have for your child.

SNP PLANNING POINTER:

Take a moment to ask yourself – What does money mean to me? Then take time to share those values with your family –this can be expressed in your Letter of Intent.

 Download a template for your Letter of Intent

Bringing Family Members into Your Discussions

There are many ways to discuss your vision and your finances. It is often easiest to begin this process in a gradual manner and in an informal environment. Although it is important to have all family members in agreement, scheduling initial discussions in a formal meeting or large family setting is not always the best. We recommend speaking to one child at a time, to get their feelings about their willingness to help. This will give them the opportunity ti share ideas with you rather than you telling them what you hope will happen. Remember, caring for a family member with disabilities is a lifetime commitment that you do not want to force on anyone, yet it is important for them to know your intentions.

After everyone has had an opportunity ti discuss tghuer feelings and ideas un and informal way, you may wish to plan a discussion wuth everyone at once.  Since every family’s dynamics are unique, you will find the best way to communicate with your family. The following steps should help to move the communication process along smoothly:

  • Share your vision
  • Talk about the amount of money you plan to have available to support your vision. You do not have to reveal all of your financial matters. You can choose to only mention the financial aspects that pertain to the needs of the family member with a disability.
  • Determine the best person to take on each role. For example, who is the best with finances? That person may be a good trustee or trust advisor of a Special Needs Trust. Who is most involved in the day to day life of the child? That person may be a good guardian.
  • Ask family members if they feel able to perform their roles independently. If not,design your plan to give them resources to work with. For example, let them know that they could hire an investment advisor to help with the trust management or a social worker to help oversee supports.

In our combined 30-plus years of planning, one of the biggest obstacles that we have encountered is that people do not feel comfortable talking about how much money they have. Even professionals in the field of providing services to families, including government agency employees that serve families, do not feel comfortable talking about money or the specific costs of providing services to individuals with disabilities. 

SNP STORY:

Although Charles is receiving all the benefits that he is eligible for and living independently, we feel that it is not enough for him to simply have what the government provides. We supplement his expenses by about $1,000 a month. This gives him the sense of self-worth and control to be able to do what he likes rather than do what someone else wants him to do. He has schizophrenia and his sense of self-worth is most important to his ability to function in life. In working with our financial planner and our attorney, we made arrangements for our other son to provide this supplement to support Charles’ needs without jeopardizing his government benefits when we are no longer able to. 

-- Charles’ father

Sometimes parents feel that they must treat all of their children equally. They feel that their children expect it. However, in many cases children without disabilities are more than willing to forego any type of inheritance to guarantee security for their brother or sister with  a disability. They understand the financial realities and would rather make sure their brother or sister is taken care of and would not expect that everything is shared equally.

One of the first steps that is required for you to be able to achieve financial security for your child is to overcome the reluctance to discuss the issues of money. We all know it takes money to provide services, staff, housing expenses, employment supports, transportation, education, health care services and the like. We also know that the government does not have an endless supply of money to funed these services.

Maximize Eligibility for Government Benefits

With this in mind, families should plan to maximize eligibility for governmenaboutof what funds are available to your family member– both personally and publicly –how to secure them and how to allocate them. We will be posting a blog about public resources, which we call government factors,  within the next few weeks.

Understand Where You Are and Where You Would Like to Be

In order to maximize your own personal resources, you must first understand where you are financially. Do you have the money to do the things you and your family like to do today? Are you happy where you are financially? If not, what can you do to change things?

The next step is to know where you want to be. What lifestyle do you envision for you and your family, today and in the future? What do you consider retirement – is it when you stop working full time, when you stop working the hours that you currently work, or when you begin to work part time or pursue a hobby for income?  What do you want to do for your vacations, travel time, fun time, and the like?  How philanthropic do you want to be? Where do you envision living when you retire?  In what type of environment do you envision your child living ?  Do you envision him or her living totally independent from you or do you intend to always be involved in the daily activities of your child's life for as long as you are able to?

Create a Plan

The next step is to prepare an action plan to get you where you want to be financially. This is where having qualified advisors to guide you through the planning process can be most beneficial.

The key issue to consider in the financial factors is maximizing personal resources. This includes maximizing tax planning strategies – both income tax and estate tax planning. The proper use of financial products can also be a key factor to financial success. You should also incorporate your group employee benefits in the planning process.  These would include your group health, life and disability insurance coverage,retirement plans, stock option plans, stock purchase plans, flexible spending plans, etc..  Determine those that are currently available to you and your family as well as those available to your family upon your death and /or retirement.  You should also determine which employee benefits are transferable and/or portable upon  termination of your employment.  Adequately protecting your income and assets in the event of a premature death and/or disability of a parent is critical.

Any type of planning process, from planning a vacation to building a house, has a defined beginning and ending point. The traditional financial planning process involves identifying resources and listing specific goals that can be quantified. Some common examples of quantifiable goals might include paying cash for your next automobile, saving for four years of college tuition payments ,purchasing a second home for retirement, or generating a retirement income equal to 65%-75% of your pre-retirement income.

Planning for a family member with disabilities can be a much more challenging process. There is no defined beginning or ending point. Needs and abilities of the individual can change rapidly and will vary significantly over time. It is only natural for the family of a young child to want to have a concrete plan in place that provides adequate assets and resources for their child’s lifetime needs. Families must realize, however, that it may not be possible to predict accurately the long-term costs involved in providing supports for an individual over his/her lifetime.

Assumptions can be made of future expenses. We can fairly accurately determine the costs of a physical residence – a house or a condo – in a geographic area based on current market values. We can also estimate the costs of maintaining the physical residence. Often, however, we cannot always accurately determine the costs of supports until the needs are identified. Once the needs are somewhat identified, we can develop a range of the probable expenses necessary to provide these supports today and in the future. Before implementing a residential plan it is highly recommended that you work with an independent consultant to determine the level of supports required. You then need to develop a model that meets both your personal preferences and your financial abilities to maintain the model, both during your lifetime and upon your death.

So how do we determine how much money is needed? And how much is too much? Just as the educational needs of every child are unique, so are the long-term planning needs of every individual with special needs. Even two individuals with a similar medical and/or cognitive diagnosis, can have significantly different support requirements. With these varying requirements, costs will also vary. There is no clear answer; the bestwe can do is to maximize all resources and coordinate all of the Five Factors.That is why it is so important to have a comprehensive plan and to reevaluate it periodically.

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Special Needs Trusts, financial planning, Retirement Planning, Letter of Intent, special needs Letter of Intent, wealth management, guardianship, Trustee Services, five factors of financial planning

The Five Factors of Special Needs Financial Planning

Posted by Patty Manko on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 @ 02:53 PM

five actors of special needs planningOne of the major obstacles that can prevent  families from planning is that they are frequently consumed by daily crises. The thought of planning ahead can simply be overwhelming. Realizing that each family situation is unique, we have identified the Five Factors that must be considered in conjunction with special needs planning.

These core planning points are by no means an exhaustive list of planning points. They will provide a baseline of what should be considered in special needs planning for every stage. Think of them as the basics you need to consider regardless of the age of your family member. They should, of course, be reexamined from time to time to be certain the recommendations stay current with your own family's needs.


FAMILY & SUPPORT FACTORS:

  • Ask the people whom you want involved with your family member's life whether or not they want to be involved before you just name them in your plan. 
  • Help prepare future guardians, caretakers, trustees and successors for their roles.
  • Complete a Letter of Intent -click here to download a sample letter of intent.
  • When grandparents or other friends or relatives offer to help by including your child in their gift or estate plans, say THANK YOU. 
  • Encourage them to have their advisors speak with your advisors who specialize in disability planning. 
  • Be connected with family support agencies in your area.

EMOTIONAL FACTORS:

  • Help your other children to meet and talk with children similar in age who also have a sibling with disabilities.
  • Seek professional help when you need it.
  • Be patient with yourself, your spouse and your family.
  • Learn as much as you can about your child's diagnosis and abilities.

FINANCIAL FACTORS:

  • Review your current financial plan -as often as possible.
  • Work with a professional who is knowledgeable in disability planning. Click here to view our checklist for interviewing a financial planner. 
  • Protect your family with adequate life insurance, long-term disability insurance, and long-term care insurance coverage for primary caregivers.
  • Identify all employee benefits for which you are eligible.
  • Do not establish a savings or investment account in your child's name.


LEGAL FACTORS:

  • Review your current estate plan -at least every five years. 
  • Create a Special Needs Trust
  • Name a guardian for your child or children in the event of your premature death or disability.
  • Check beneficiary designations on all life insurance, retirement plan accounts and annuities. These include employer benefit plans too.


GOVERNMENT BENEFIT FACTORS:

  • Advocate for your child. Join forces with your state & local advocacy agencies.
  • Know and pursue your child's legal rights and entitlements.
  • Maintain eligibility for your child's government benefits at all times, even if they are not currently receiving them.
  • Apply for Social Security Survivor's benefits promptly when a parent of a child with a disability dies.
special_ needs_financial_ planningFor further information about the Five Factors of Special Needs Financial Planning, click here to contact us.

Tags: Special Needs Trusts, Letter of Intent, Special Needs Financial Planning, special needs Letter of Intent, guardianship, five factors of financial planning

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