There are many ways to present your vision and discuss your finances around the future care of your family member with special needs. Opening the lines of communication with members of your Team to Carry On is key.
Begin with one on one, low-key conversations. It is often easiest and best to approach 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.
Gather information. We recommend speaking to one child at a time, to get their feelings about their willingness to help. This will give them the opportunity to 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 to discuss their feelings and ideas in an informal way, you may wish to plan a discussion with everyone at once. Since every family’s dynamics are unique, you will find the best way to communicate with your family.
Questions to ask and information to share. 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.
Family Parity . 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. Here's an example of a parent putting a plan in place for his son, Charles:
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.
How much will it cost? 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 best we can do is to maximize all resources and coordinate all of the Five Factors.
Beginning the conversation is huge. In our decades 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.
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 fund these services. That is why it is so important to have a comprehensive plan and to reevaluate it periodically.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Experience provided is for illustrative purposes only, and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Your situation and circumstances may be different. To determine which strategy may be appropriate for you, consult your financial, tax, or legal advisor prior to making a decision.