Most 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.