Year End Planning Tips for Families with Special Needs

Posted by Patty Manko on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 @ 04:40 PM

2013 2014 year end resized 600This is a great time of year to reflect upon what has happened in 2013 and enable you to set goals for 2014. Here are also a few additional planning strategies to consider.

1. Update your Letter of Intent (LOI)

This is a great gift idea too, not only for your child, but for yourself. Many of our client's give an updated copy of their child's LOI at the holidays to each of his/her future caretakers, guardians, and trustees. Keep your LOI up to date and you will have the peace of mind knowing that if anything should happen to you, then you have left a legacy of information and the vision you have for your child's lifetime.  The LOI is the one central place to put all of your child's important information and important people and agencies in his/her life. You can also tell others about daily routines, habits, hygiene, hobbies, preferences of your child, and so much more.  Click here to download a sample LOI.

2. Gifts from Grandparents

Please remember to say thank you first! This is the time of year that gifts of money can be in excess of the $2,000 limits. The annual gift tax exclusion amount is $13,000 for 2012. Unfortunately if given to your child or to an account in his/her name, this gift can jeopardize your child's eligibility for government benefits. Gift giving, if done properly, can be beneficial for everyone. Please contact us if you would like to discuss options for your own financial and estate planning.

3. Gifts to Charities

Don't forget to support the agencies that support your family members. This time of year, most charitable non-profit organizations and agencies are asking for your financial support. They do so to be able to continue to provide the services and supports to your family member. Most donations to these agencies are tax deductible to you. Don't forget to consider any matching gifts from your employer(s). This is our chance to give back and say thank you. If you would like to discuss options of charitable giving techniques for your own personal financial and estate planning, please contact us.

Contact us

We wish all our readers a very happy holiday season.

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Special Needs Trusts, special needs Letter of Intent

For Sisters and Brothers: Our Sibtips

Posted by Patty Manko on Tue, Nov 26, 2013 @ 04:24 PM

James , alex, roxy copy 2 resized 600WE are both sisters of brothers with special needs. As we each step into the role of caretaker for our brother, there is a whole new world of terms and acronyms we need to learn. We call it the alphabet soup of special needs planning.
WE would like to share a glossary of terms we have learned over the past many years of providing Special Needs Financial Planning to families. As siblings, we have gathered some helpful tips to share and have included them as a SibTip with their respective term. have also included a directory of terms classified by our Five Factors of Special Needs Planning. 

Haddad Family.jpg copy 2 resized 600We hope you find this useful and we encourage you to share your tips and suggestions to make it an even better resource.  If it gets too overwhelming, know that we are here to help. 
Feel free to contact us at 781-756-1804 , on our website or via
Special Needs Planning on Facebook.
Enjoy the journey!!
Cynthia R. Haddad, CFP®, Ron's Sister
Alexandria M. Nadworny, James' Sister   
 Download  our  Sib Tips



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

Using the Letter of Intent to Plan for Your Child Today

Posted by Patty Manko on Thu, Oct 24, 2013 @ 05:15 PM

describe the imageFinancing Your Vision for Your Child: Using the Letter of Intent to Plan for the Future Today

The Letter of Intent (LOI) has long been utilized as a tool to guide guardians, trustees, siblings and others to care for your dependent child when you, as parents, are unable to do so. In many cases, it contains detailed information that only a parent would know about their child’s history and personal preferences. In every case, it is a document that views the child’s life today and in the future through the eyes of his or her parents or guardians.

The actual composition of the LOI requires gathering and recording the people, places and services relating to your child. It also involves sorting out one’s feelings and defining expectations when thinking about the future for your child with spe- cial needs. Every child is unique and this document will be unique: it should be flexible, clear and personal.

Asking the Right Questions
The art of successful planning involves knowing the right questions to ask, not just working with data. Since developing the Five Factors of comprehensive special needs planning, we have organized the content of our LOI based upon these key
elements in planning for your child’s future. Many families need a catalyst to en- courage them to begin the planning process. An LOI can act as this catalyst by ask- ing thought provoking questions. The LOI and your overall plan needs to be peri- odically reviewed and revised and it is important to provide your child’s future caregiver with an updated copy.

Financing Your Vision
Although completing an LOI is a crucial step in assuring the care and wellbeing of your child should you die, this document may also serve a very important function while you are alive. The LOI may be used as a basis for financial planning to achieve your vision for your child today.

Download a letter of intent by clicking on the image below.

 Receive a comprehensive  template for your  Letter of Intent


Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Letter of Intent

10 Steps to Plan for Your Child with Special Needs

Posted by Patty Manko on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 @ 09:22 AM

describe the imageAs friends worry out loud about how they'll pay for their kids' college education, the parents of children with special needs have worries that extend beyond the few years it takes to get a college degree:

  • How will we pay for the special therapies our child needs now?
  • Who will pay our child's expenses once he or she becomes an adult?
  • Where will our child live and who will oversee his or her care after we're gone?


These daunting questions and fears stop many parents in their tracks but creating a plan can ease anxiety. Some of the issues you need to confront are financial: How do you set aside money for your child without affecting his or her government benefits? And some are emotional: Who would understand your child's needs if something were to happen to you right now?

Here are 10 steps to planning your child's financial future. Some are simple, some are challenging; some cost nothing and some require paying legal fees. Get started on some of these now, so you'll have peace of mind down the road.

1. Create a Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust is the most important part of your child's long-term financial plan. This is where you can put money that you save, that others give your child as gifts, or that you receive from an insurance settlement without worrying that these funds will interfere with your child's eligibility for federal benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Even if you're unable to pay into a trust right now, set one up anyway. This way, you can make the trust the beneficiary of your life insurance policy and your estate, ensuring that those assets don't get passed to your child when you die. Why wouldn't you want your child to be the beneficiary of your estate? Because showing more than $2,000 in assets could make your child ineligible for federal benefits such as SSI.Learn more about special needs trusts by clicking below.

Learn about Special Needs Trusts

2. Write a Will

A will specifies what will be done with your assets after your death. By writing a will, you make sure that your assets are left to the special needs trust and not to your child. Without a will, a probate court judge could name your child as a beneficiary, which could make your child ineligible for federal benefits (see above). The will is also where you can specify a guardian who will take care of your child.

When you have a child with special needs, a will should not be a do-it-yourself endeavor. Hire a lawyer who works specifically for people with special needs and is aware of your state's disability laws. Once the documents are drafted, have your lawyer keep one and then give copies to any executors or guardians named in the will.

Costs for this legal paperwork, including the will, trust, and powers of attorney, start at $1,500 and go higher depending on where you live. Contact the Academy of Special Needs Planners or the Special Needs Alliance for a referral to an attorney in your state.

3. Name a Guardian

A guardian is the person who will care for your child if you were to die before he or she becomes an adult. In choosing this person, consider how much time you now spend tending to your child's needs. Who can handle that type of commitment? Who has bonded with your child? Who has the patience, understanding, and other personality traits necessary to deal with the day-to-day responsibilities of raising your child?

Once you pick someone, ask the person if he or she can and will accept that responsibility (even though you hope it will never be necessary). And talk about how this commitment will likely stretch beyond when your child turns 18.

4. Name a Trustee

A trustee is the person who will be responsible for managing the special needs trust after your death. It can be a family member, a friend, or even a bank or lawyer. The trustee ensures that the money in the trust is spent only on your child with special needs and only on services that you've specified or that are appropriate to your child's needs. The trustee also supervises how the money in the trust is invested. The person who is caring for your son or daughter (the guardian) cannot spend any money in the trust without the trustee's approval.

And a word on trustees and guardians: They often are not the same person, and some financial advisors recommend that they never be the same person. By separating these roles, you ensure a "checks and balances" system for your child's future needs.

Duties of a Trustee

5. Build Your Savings

Parents of children with special needs quickly learn that just because a child needs a certain treatment or therapy doesn't mean that your school system will offer it or insurance will cover it. This is where personal savings become so important. Start putting aside whatever you can each month — no amount is too small — to cover these extra expenses. Just make sure you never put this money in your child's name.

Savings also can help pay for a special needs advocate, an expert in special education who can help you navigate the paperwork, programs, and laws that affect what services your child qualifies for. Special needs advocates can save parents money in the long run by using their expertise to ensure that kids get all the services they're entitled to from their local school district.

To find an advocate in your area, contact your local school district, organizations focused on your child's disability, or local colleges with special needs programs for a referral.

6. Write a Letter of Intent

Preparing for your child's financial future is important. But hand-in-hand with that is making sure that your child's everyday needs will be met should anything happen to you. That's where a Letter of Intent comes in. Is your child's daily routine very important? Write it down and be as detailed as possible. The same goes for your child's daily, weekly, and monthly schedules.

Create a list of contact information for your child's physicians, therapists, and other medical support people as well as current medications and their dosages and schedules. Are there people you don't want around your child or activities to be avoided? Write that down too.

And then once a year, update the letter. This is not a formal legal document, so you can draft it yourself. Keep a copy wherever you have copies of your will. And make sure that your child's appointed guardian has a copy too.

Download a template for your Letter of Intent

7. Plan for Your Child's Independence

When your child is about 16, start thinking about where he or she will live as an adult. In most states, people with special needs are 21 or 22 years old when they become ineligible for education services through the local public school system.

So start thinking: Will your child remain living with you? If so, will support personnel be needed during the day when he or she used to be at school? Are day programs for adults with special needs available in your area? If independent living is the goal, start investigating options in your community such as shared living, group homes, or apartments. Once you find a place you like, get on the waiting list if there is one.

Download our Exclusive Resource on Transition  and Residential Planning

8. Apply for Guardianship or Power of Attorney

Once children turn 18, they're considered adults in the eyes of the law. This gives your child the right to make medical and financial decisions. If he or she is not capable of this or needs your guidance, consider assuming legal guardianship or the less-restrictive power of attorney and health care proxy for his or her financial, legal, and health care affairs. This way you maintain the same supervision and control you had over these as you did when your daughter or son was younger.

Experts advise parents to hire an attorney to help with this process. This will ensure that you have all the powers you would need to assume control of your adult child's health care in the event of an emergency. If your child cannot or won't consent to you assuming power of attorney, the matter will likely be decided before a probate court judge.

9. Educate Family Members

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other loved ones might want to help out with expenses. But explain to them the importance of not putting anything in your child's name. Have a family meeting and explain why grandpa can't leave anything to your child in his will or name your child beneficiary on his life insurance policy. The same goes for gifts of savings bonds, stocks, or cash: nothing should ever be in your child's name.

And if your son or daughter will not attend college, there is no need for a 529 savings plan. Those funds can only be used for post-secondary education, not private schools, tutoring, or therapies needed before age 18.

If loved ones want to leave something to your child, they can. But tell them to name the special needs trust as the beneficiary to ensure that your child holds no assets of his or her own.

10. Need Help? Find an Advisor

If all of this is too overwhelming, as certified financial planners and  special needs financial planners, we can help. Ask your human resources department if your company offers this service as part of your benefits package. 

We have been there both personally and professionally. We can help.

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Special Needs Trusts, Trustee Services

Are You All Set for Your Child with Special Needs?

Posted by Patty Manko on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 @ 02:40 PM

SNFP are you all set  resized 600We have a planning process for our clients who have dependents with special needs. 

Use this checklist, Are You all Set?, pictured on the right, to see where you stand now. 

Recognizing that every family situation is unique, we have found through experience that a step-by-step approach works extremely well.

Step 1: We work together with you to help identify and prioritize your family's objectives and goals.

Step 2: We analyze your present financial situation with respect to these goals by reviewing family resources, legal documents, investments, insurances and other related matters.

We determine if you are taking advantage of any and all government resources, if you are eligible.

Step 3: We recommend steps that seek to maximize and protect both personal and public resources.

Step 4: We assist you in objectively and securely implementing your plan. When needed, we actively associate with numerous private and public agencies, professionals, and service providers as part of our planning process.

Step 5: We periodically review and revise your plan as required by changes in personal circumstances and external environments. 

Next Step

We believe that you have read this far for a reason and we hope the above and the other resources on this site are useful to you. Should you have any questions or input for us, or personal experiences you would consider sharing with us, we would like very much to hear from you. We are always working to expand the information we offer on this site and would welcome your input and suggestions.

We have been there both personally and professionally. We can help.

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, Special Needs Planning Timeline

Workshops and Events for Families with Special Needs

Posted by Patty Manko on Mon, Sep 16, 2013 @ 02:11 PM

Click on the box below to view the full size, printable version.

describe the image

 For Additional Information about a  Presentation for your Organization








Tags: transition planning, Special Needs Financial Planning, special needs workshops, special needs presentations, Special Needs Planning Timeline

Planning for a Child with Special Needs in Divorce

Posted by Patty Manko on Mon, Sep 09, 2013 @ 04:04 PM

divorce and special needs child resized 600Finding a fair and equitable agreement when parties are divorcing is often a challenge. When parents of a child with special needs separate and divorce, the challenge is magnified. Based upon both our personal and professional experience, it is critical to bring parents into agreement on a plan that does not take sides, but focuses on representing the needs of their child.

This means planning for families with unique sets of circumstances. We can help. 

  • Based upon our understanding of the obstacles children with special needs may have in growing up, we can describe and define the needs of the child.
  • Based upon the child’s unique situation, we can quantify the amount of financial support necessary to meet these needs, for the short- and long-term.
  • We will connecting parents, when interested, with various agencies that provide support services.
  • We inform parents about available government programs.
Importantly, we not only define the need but can work with the parties to realistically plan and make it achievable.

 We welcome an opportunity to discuss how our services can help in cases of divorce  and provide the best plan for a child’s lifetime supports.  As a basic resource not customized for families of individuals with special needs, download the pre-divorce checklist below.

Download our Pre-Divorce Planning Checklist

Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, supports for special needs, siblings, Divorce, Government Benefits, special needs Divorce

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