Families often ask what they should do first – the financial or the legal planning. Regardless whether you elect to begin the process by meeting with a financial planner or attorney, the following two steps are required prior to the meeting:
1. Identify and prioritize your goals
2. List your resources available
Based on this information, you can begin to determine with your financial and/or legal advisors the most appropriate legal documents that you should have.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY AND PRIORITIZE YOUR GOALS:
Begin by determining the vision you want to have for your family today , during your lifetime and after you are gone. This is where we begin. Just as when we plan a trip, we start with the destination first and explore ways to get there. Make it simple by prioritizing your financial concerns. Some common concerns that families identify include how to:
Maintain their current lifestyle in the event of a premature death of a parent or primary caregiver.
Provide the opportunity for all their children to achieve their maximum potential, including funding for college and post-secondary education programs.
Maximize eligibility for any and all government benefits for their child with disabilities – both during their lifetime and upon their death.
Explore options and alternatives for the most independent residential lifestyle possible for their child with disabilities.
Have adequate savings for financial independence for their own retirement.
Protect their income and assets in the event of the disability of a parent or primary caregiver.
Minimize income and estate taxes within prescribed IRS legal limitations.
Determine how to apportion their estate amongst their children in the most equitable manner.
Often, it is difficult to even define a goal. Sometimes simply by listening to others and discussing your concerns, it becomes easier to identify your own goals. We then recommend prioritizing the goals as short-term, intermediate-term, or long-term. We have expertise with this process and can help build your own special needs planning timeline.
SNP PLANNING POINTER:
By doing the first two initial steps in the financial planning process (i.e, identify goals and list assets and resources) prior to the legal planning process, you will at least have a good understanding of your financial situation to help determine the extent of the legal documents required. These steps will determine if the value of your assets are large enough to warrant specific estate tax planning techniques in addition to basic estate planning needs. Without developing a clear and current picture of your financial matters first, you can end up with inappropriate legal documents being created. This can then lead to the use of inappropriate financial products. This ultimately leads to unnecessary legal and financial fees.