Special Needs Financial Planning featured in FPA paper

Posted by Patricia Manko on Fri, Apr 19, 2013 @ 12:59 AM

Key takeaway: 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.

describe the imageMost 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.

Tags: Special Needs Trusts, 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.


  • 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

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


                  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

Letters of Intent and Sharing Your Financial Values

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 @ 12:14 PM

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It is important to articulate your own values concerning money in the context of your vision for the future of your child with special needs. You need to make sure the people who you expect to implement your plans understand very well what they are. This is something many people find to be a difficult and even daunting task. Here are some tips for making the process go smoothly.

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 discussion in a formal meeting or a large family setting is not always the best.

We recommend that you speak to one child at a time, to get their feelings about their willingness to help. This will offer them an opportunity to share ideas with you, rather than you telling them what you are hoping 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 understand 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 you vision.

* Talk about 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 (for more information on selecting a trustee, see Chapter 9 of our book "The Special Needs Planning Guide"). 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.

Talking about money

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 or the specific costs of providing services to individuals with disabilities.

Sometimes parents feel that they must treat all of their children equally. They feel that their children expect it. In many cases, however, siblings understand the financial realities and would rather make sure that their brother or sister is taken care of.

One the first steps necessary 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 that it takes money to pay for services, staff, housing expenses, employment supports, transportation educations, health care services and the like. We also know that government does not have an endless supply of money to fund these services.

Talking to your family members about these important issues, and bringing them into the process of finding solutions, is so important.

Special Needs Planning Pointerletter of intent resized 600
Share your Special Letter of Intent with family members and caregivers. A fill-in-the-blank version is included with our book, The Special Needs Planning Guide. Parents should make a point of completing one and keeping it up to date. Now is a good time to share it with future caregivers and make it a living document. Do not just leave it up to others to figure everything out after you are gone. Preparing this document in advance is a priceless gift that only you can give.

Tags: Letter of Intent, special needs Letter of Intent

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