Patricia Manko

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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

Planning for Life after Special Education in Massachusetts

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 @ 02:38 PM

Ten Key Takeaways  from “A Full Life Ahead”

Planning for Life after Special Education in Massachusetts

Presented by Pamela Coveney, Disability Law Center, Boston, MA

10 key points

  1. Goals in the IEP should be specific and concrete.
  2. Document everything and be as specific as possible. These specifics can be used to measure your child’s progress toward goals as well as make all parties accountable.
  3. When discussing transitions be sure to focus not only on the academic skills, but the social skills as well.
  4. Your child should be objectively tested in order to obtain an accurate assessment. 
  5. Transition will be based upon assessment of your child’s strengths, interests and challenges.
  6. Be sure to sign and date the application.
  7. Keep records of the supports you are providing for your child.Include the smallest details of support you personally provide which are essential to your child’s well being. This will be very helpful in determining the level of supports required.
  8. You are not required to sign the IEP at the meeting, however do not reject the IEP proposal. Rejecting the IEP will waive your right to receive services. Instead, check the box Accept in Part/Reject in Part as this will keep the process in motion.
  9. Always follow up in writing.
  10. A MUST: Download the Transition Services Online Manual produced by the Disability Law Center. This is a treasure chest of information including templates for letters requesting evaluations and referrals.
Click here for information  about upcoming events in MA    Contact us for  further information
This is for informational purposes only and is not provided by, nor endorsed by, LPL Financial.

Tags: Special Needs Events in MA, disability legislation

Getting People With Disabilities the Jobs They Need

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Dec 13, 2012 @ 04:57 PM

flag disabilities resized 600by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Last week, the U.S. Senate defeated the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). It was yet another brutal disappointment for Americans with disabilities. Sadly, despite the fact that America passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) twenty-two years ago, Americans with disabilities are no more likely to be employed todaythan they were before the ADA was the law of the land.

Billions in both private and public sector dollars were spent post ADA to fix sidewalks, transportation, and entrances to buildings so that people with disabilities could have access to the American dream -- education and job opportunities. However, only 27.6% percent of working age people with disabilities are actually working. This iscosting hundreds of billions in tax dollars each year for disability payments.

What's wrong, and why isn't more being done to end this crisis?

Thirty- seven years ago, America passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA mandated to state and local governments that children with disabilities had a right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that prepares them for further education, employment and independent living. Since then dedicated public education professionals -- teachers, therapists, superintendents of Public Instruction and others have gone to Herculean efforts to provide services for children with special needs.

Likewise, children with disabilities themselves, with strong support from parents, have gone enormous lengths to prepare for work and independent lives. The result is that many of today's young adults with disabilities have been able to accomplish vital academic and life skills and are ready for work. Additionally, because of breakthroughs, people who are blind or are unable to speak on their own can now use technology to succeed in ways previously only imagined.

Still, at age 22, when services for young Americans with disabilities run out, many can find themselves like a player in a game of musical chairs where when the music stops and there simply aren't enough jobs for them. They're out. Only this isn't a game. It's life.
With urging from Congressman George Miller, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently identified and evaluated 45 federal government programs that are intended to support employment for people with disabilities. Bottom line, our government's solutions for helping Americans with disabilities achieve the American dream -- work and independence -- are a mess. Coordination, performance metrics and transparency are desperately needed.
Thankfully, a talented bipartisan group of elected officials are now really bringing to focus on these issues. Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the HELP committee, is leading the way in the Senate with ranking member Senator Mike Enzi. In the House of Representatives two prominent Republicans, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Pete Sessions, both of whom have children with Down syndrome, are considering solutions through the prism of fiscal conservatism. The White House issued an executive order to hire a 100,000 qualified people with disabilities for open government jobs over time. Still, President Obama has yet to personally address this issue in a public forum. He can do much more.

At the state level, however, Gov. Jack Markell, Chair of the National Governor's Association, has made solving these challenges into his chair's initiative. His exciting work, A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities, focuses on the employment challenges that affect individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities. He is bringing together public, private sector and non-profit leaders to come up with creative and bipartisan solutions that can enable people with disabilities to go from being dependent to independent.
Academic groups and healthcare providers, including the Association of University Centers on Disabilities and the Kennedy Krieger Institute, are also doing their part to learn how to prepare young people with disabilities for jobs and independence.

Today millions of Americans with disabilities who are educated, capable and willing are relegated to a life of miserable payments from the federal treasuries whose coffers are already bare. However, what they really need instead are transitional supports and an employer willing to see their ABILITIES, and not just their disabilities. As has been shown by Walgreens, Specialisterne and other companies that have hired people with disabilities, these employees can be exceptionally reliable, talented and profitable workers.

America can't afford financially or morally to pay people to stay home when supports to accommodate their special needs can enable them to work and be independent. There is a long way to go to solve these challenges and it cannot be done by the government alone. But enabling Americans -- including those with disabilities -- to achieve the American Dream is a goal worth fighting for.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who has a disability, is the co-founder of the Mizrahi Family Charitable Trust and is also the Founder & President of Laszlo Strategies. Mizrahi does not have a financial stake in this topic. Her firm and her charitable trust work to further causes related to medical science and disabilities.

Tags: disability legislation

Siblings and a Letter of Intent

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Nov 08, 2012 @ 05:18 PM

describe the imageParents should make a point to complete the Letter of Intent to document the important aspects of your child’s life. Share it with the future caretakers today, including siblings and make it a living document.  Don’t just leave it for them after you are gone.

 Determining Roles for Siblings to Play

 A pragmatic approach is an effective means to define a role for siblings. This approach can utilize assigning defined responsibilities.

Responsibilities may be shared.  Tasks and roles may be shared, which will allow a sibling to contribute without feeling overwhelmed that they have to be the ” everything” or “IT” person in the family.

Partner with a professional. Siblings can partner with experienced special needs planning professionals to help them provide the best solutions for their brother or sister.

describe the imageSome functional roles siblings may play:

Caregiver, Guardian

Health care proxy, Power of attorney,

Conservator, Trustee, Trust advisor

 Investment manager, Tax preparer,

 Bookkeeper to help pay bills,

 Representative payee for  SSI


                  Just be a brother  or sister!

For more information, click below to attend a presentation of No Sibling Left Behind or Planning is a Family Affair

Contact us for  further information



Tags: siblings, Letter of Intent, friendship, guardianship, special needs Letter of Intent

Special Needs Financial Planning Newsletter

Posted by Patricia Manko on Wed, Oct 24, 2012 @ 06:08 PM

Click on the icon below to download our October newsletter featuring

  • Planning is a Family Affair: Coming of Age as a Brother or Sister of a Person with Disabilities
  • Our new, exclusive SNFP Housing Checklist
  • Tips to help people with autism and their families have happy holidays

SNFP Logo resized 600



Tags: Housing, Special Needs Financial Planning, autism

A Sample Letter of Intent for Caregivers

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 @ 05:50 PM

wishes6 resized 600The most important asset your child has isYOU.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 view and download a a blank sample Letter of Intent,click on the image below.

describe the image


Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Letter of Intent

How Trustees Can Protect Themselves

Posted by Patricia Manko on Tue, Sep 11, 2012 @ 04:18 PM

hardhat resized 600To protect themselves' from any given potential liability, trustees' best defense is to always act in the best interest of the beneficiary.

  • They should read the trust thoroughly and understand their responsibilities.
  • Trustees need to make sure that all of the trust property that is supposed to be part of the trust is actually registered to the trust.
  • All assets—real estate, automobiles, and investment accounts—should be properly insured.
  • Income taxes must be paid in a timely manner.
  • Trustees should send periodic accounts—annually if not quarterly—to the beneficiary or his or her legal representative. Keeping the beneficiary informed is important.
  • If a trustee has any questions about procedures or requirements, it is recommended that a qualified professional be hired to assist with the specific aspects of the trust and the needs of the beneficiary.

The Surety bond
A surety bond is insurance that protects the beneficiary if the trustee mismanages or misappropriates the trust property. Whether the trustee must post a bond, and if so, what type, is usually stated in the trust instrument. Some Special Needs Trusts excuse a trustee who is a relative of the beneficiary from giving bond, but require a professional or corporate trustee to post a bond.

Trustee's Personal Liability
When an individual agrees to be a trustee, they accept some degree of personal risk. If, as a result of their actions, the trust suffers a financial loss, the trustee may have to repay that loss out of their personal assets. Whether this will occur depends on the kind of action that caused the loss, the laws in each particular state, and any provisions in the trust that govern the trustee’s liability.

Legal Standards
In general, a trustee is liable for any intentional act on his/her part that caused the trust to lose money. 
Some trusts contain a so-called exculpatory clause. A common exculpatory clause will exempt a trustee from personal liability if he or she acts in good faith. A trustee would only be personally responsible for a loss if he or she acted in bad faith or was grossly negligent.

Investment losses
It is not uncommon for one or more of the trust’s investments to decline in value in any particular year. Sometimes the trust’s entire portfolio will lose money. If that occurs, the trustee in most cases does not have to make up the loss personally. Most states have a prudent investor rule that will insulate the trustee from losses as long as he or she adheres to that state’s requirements. 

Most states' prudent investor rules require the trustee to invest and manage the trust property as a prudent investor would. This means that the trustee should not exercise extreme risk or extreme caution. Instead, they should consider the size, terms, and purpose of the trust, and use reasonable care, skill, and caution. Also, a typical prudent investor law requires the trustee to reasonably diversify the assets in the portfolio to meet the long term goals as well as current cash flow needs of the beneficiary. 

 Read about our services for trustees.

Tags: Special Needs Trusts, Trustee Services

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