How to Talk about the Money When Planning for the Future

Posted by Patty Manko on Thu, Sep 04, 2014 @ 09:24 AM

dad talk resized 600There 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 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.

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. 


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 fund these services.

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.That is why it is so important to have a comprehensive plan and to reevaluate it periodically.

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Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, five factors of financial planning, 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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

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