Financial Factors in Special Needs Planning

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 @ 03:09 PM

financial factors Starting at a very young age we are taught about the value of money. Throughout our lives we associate the value of money to our life experiences such as paying for our own college education, purchasing a car, buying a house, saving for our own children’s college and our ultimate retirement – in addition to the daily expenses of our desired lifestyle.

Your Family's Financial Values or Standards

It is important to talk about the value of money and what it means to you because you can pass these values on to future caretakers and other family members. How you feel about money can also have an impact upon what you can achieve for your child's future. It does not do any good if you do not share your values of money with others. If parents do not articulate their vision, their financial capacity to achieve their goals and their financial intentions, their vision for their child may not happen. It is important to express your values to your financial advisors, trustees, guardians, and legal advisors, but also to your other family members. These individuals most likely will be the ones to follow through on implementing the plan that you have for your child.

SNP PLANNING POINTER:

Take a moment to ask yourself – What does money mean to me? Then take time to share those values with your family –this can be expressed in your Letter of Intent.

 Download a template for your Letter of Intent

Bringing Family Members into Your Discussions

There 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 ti 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 ti discuss tghuer feelings and ideas un and informal way, you may wish to plan a discussion wuth 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. 

SNP STORY:

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 funed these services.

Maximize Eligibility for Government Benefits

With this in mind, families should plan to maximize eligibility for governmenaboutof what funds are available to your family member– both personally and publicly –how to secure them and how to allocate them. We will be posting a blog about public resources, which we call government factors,  within the next few weeks.

Understand Where You Are and Where You Would Like to Be

In order to maximize your own personal resources, you must first understand where you are financially. Do you have the money to do the things you and your family like to do today? Are you happy where you are financially? If not, what can you do to change things?

The next step is to know where you want to be. What lifestyle do you envision for you and your family, today and in the future? What do you consider retirement – is it when you stop working full time, when you stop working the hours that you currently work, or when you begin to work part time or pursue a hobby for income?  What do you want to do for your vacations, travel time, fun time, and the like?  How philanthropic do you want to be? Where do you envision living when you retire?  In what type of environment do you envision your child living ?  Do you envision him or her living totally independent from you or do you intend to always be involved in the daily activities of your child's life for as long as you are able to?

Create a Plan

The next step is to prepare an action plan to get you where you want to be financially. This is where having qualified advisors to guide you through the planning process can be most beneficial.

The key issue to consider in the financial factors is maximizing personal resources. This includes maximizing tax planning strategies – both income tax and estate tax planning. The proper use of financial products can also be a key factor to financial success. You should also incorporate your group employee benefits in the planning process.  These would include your group health, life and disability insurance coverage,retirement plans, stock option plans, stock purchase plans, flexible spending plans, etc..  Determine those that are currently available to you and your family as well as those available to your family upon your death and /or retirement.  You should also determine which employee benefits are transferable and/or portable upon  termination of your employment.  Adequately protecting your income and assets in the event of a premature death and/or disability of a parent is critical.

Any type of planning process, from planning a vacation to building a house, has a defined beginning and ending point. The traditional financial planning process involves identifying resources and listing specific goals that can be quantified. Some common examples of quantifiable goals might include paying cash for your next automobile, saving for four years of college tuition payments ,purchasing a second home for retirement, or generating a retirement income equal to 65%-75% of your pre-retirement income.

Planning for a family member with disabilities can be a much more challenging process. There is no defined beginning or ending point. Needs and abilities of the individual can change rapidly and will vary significantly over time. It is only natural for the family of a young child to want to have a concrete plan in place that provides adequate assets and resources for their child’s lifetime needs. Families must realize, however, that it may not be possible to predict accurately the long-term costs involved in providing supports for an individual over his/her lifetime.

Assumptions can be made of future expenses. We can fairly accurately determine the costs of a physical residence – a house or a condo – in a geographic area based on current market values. We can also estimate the costs of maintaining the physical residence. Often, however, we cannot always accurately determine the costs of supports until the needs are identified. Once the needs are somewhat identified, we can develop a range of the probable expenses necessary to provide these supports today and in the future. Before implementing a residential plan it is highly recommended that you work with an independent consultant to determine the level of supports required. You then need to develop a model that meets both your personal preferences and your financial abilities to maintain the model, both during your lifetime and upon your death.

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 bestwe 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.

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Retirement Planning, Special Needs Trusts, five factors of financial planning, Letter of Intent, Trustee Services, guardianship, financial planning, wealth management, special needs Letter of Intent

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.


FAMILY & SUPPORT FACTORS:

  • 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.

EMOTIONAL FACTORS:

  • 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.

FINANCIAL FACTORS:

  • 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.


LEGAL FACTORS:

  • 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.


GOVERNMENT BENEFIT FACTORS:

  • 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

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

  Advocate

                  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

Checklist of Core Planning Points for Special Needs Planning- Part I

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, May 24, 2012 @ 01:08 PM

describe the imageThese core planning points are 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.

 

FAMILY & SUPPORT FACTORS:

  • 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 
  • 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.

FINANCIAL FACTORS:

  • REVIEW your current financial plan -as often as possible.
  • Work with a PROFESSIONAL who is knowledgeable in disability planning. See our checklist for questions to ask 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.

Part II of ths blog will contain checklists for the Legal, Government and Emotional Factors in planning for your child with special needs.

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Letter of Intent, guardianship

Special Needs Financial Planning on Guardianship -Part II

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, May 17, 2012 @ 03:26 PM

guardianship resized 600If an individual with a disability is capable of making some but not all decisions, one or more of the alternatives to guardianship discussed here should be considered. These alternatives to guardianship are listed from least restrictive to most restrictive:

1. A joint bank account can be created to prevent rash expenditures. Arrangements can be made with most banks for benefits checks, such as Social Security or SSI payments, to be sent directly to the bank for deposit. (Remember to keep this account balance below $2,000.)

2. A representative payee can be named to manage the funds of a person with a disability who receives benefits checks from Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or the Veterans Benefits Administration. Benefits checks are sent to the representative payee.

3. A durable power of attorney (POA) for property is a legal document that grants one person the legal authority to handle the financial affairs of another. Generally, the use of a POA should be used when the individual with disabilities has the capacity to make basic meaningful decisions and does not require full guardianship but may not be able to make complex financial decisions without support.

4. A durable POA for health care, also known as a health care proxy, should be considered for individuals who are presently capable of making decisions about their health care and wish to anticipate possibly future incompetence.

5. An appointment of advocate and authorization allows a person with a disability to designate an agent to advocate on his or her behalf with administrative agencies such as the state department of cognitive disability, the department of mental health services, or the department of medical assistance.

6. Trusts may be an appropriate alternative to appointment of guardian in some circumstances. A trust is a legal plan for placing funds and other assets in the control of a trustee for the benefit of an individual with a disability - or even for those with no known disability.

7. As mentioned previously, guardianship is an option for persons who, because of mental illness, developmental disability, or physical disability, lack sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning their care and financial affairs. Guardians are approved and appointed by the court. Guardianships are also supervised by the court. The guardian provides a report on the status of the individual to the court annually.

This list of alternatives to guardianship is not exhaustive, but worth speaking with an attorney about.

In general, the guardian or conservator is responsible for handling the individual's financial resources, but is not personally financially responsible for them from his or her own resources.

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Special Needs Trusts, guardianship

Special Needs Financial Planning on Guardianship -Part I

Posted by Patricia Manko on Tue, May 15, 2012 @ 01:20 PM

describe the imageGuardianship is a legal means of protecting children and "incompetent adults" (in legal terms, adults who cannot take care of themselves, make decisions that are in their own best interest, or handle their assets due to a physical or mental disability). When the court determines that a person is incapable of handling either their personal or financial affairs a guardian will be appointed.

This two-part blog will first discuss some important considerations when making choices for your adult child with disabilities and then in part II  outline choices of guardianship from least to most restrictive.

The subject of guardianship for an adult child with disabilities is of concern to most parents. Parents of children with severe disabilities often assume that they can continue to be their adult child's legal guardian during the child's entire life.

Although it may be obvious to a parent that a child does not have the capacity to make informed decisions, legally an adult is presumed competent unless otherwise determined to be incompetent after a competency proceeding. Once an individual reaches the age of 18, the parent is no longer the individual's legal guardian. Parents need to explore legal options available to protect their child from unscrupulous individuals who may exploit their child's inability to make informed choices.

Some things to know when considering guardianship:

a. A guardian of the person is responsible for monitoring the care of the person with disabilities to ensure that the individual is receiving proper care and supervision. The guardian is responsible for decisions regarding most medical care, education, and vocational issues.

b. A guardian of the estate or conservatorship should be considered for a person with disabilities who is unable to manage their finances and have income from sources other than benefit checks, or have other assets and/or property.

c. A guardianship may be limited to certain areas of decision making, such as decisions about medical treatment or medications in order to allow the individual to continue making their own decisions in all other areas.

d. A temporary guardian or conservator may be appointed in an emergency situation when certain decisions must be made immediately.

As with all legal decisions, we suggest you seek legal advice from an attorney who is knowledgeable in disability law in the individual's state of residence

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Special Needs Trusts, guardianship

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