TRUTH: The most important asset your child has is YOU.
No one can replace a parent. However, you can put a plan in place to ensure your child continues to be cared for and live a full life as you age and upon your death. Your plan for the future has 3 elements:
The People who will have roles in your child's life. Read on- your Letter Of Intent includes them all.
The Money to fund your plan. A Comprehensive Special Needs Financial Plan includes all the members of your family.
The Legal Documents to formalize and direct the implementation of your plan.
Remember, the LOI is a dynamic document; you should view it as a work in progress. Feel free to skip around and complete it your way!
It is critically important to provide the people who will care for your child when you are gone with detailed information that only you know. You can provide this information in an accessible and organized document: a Letter of Intent.
The Letter of Intent (LOI) is NOT a legally binding document however, it may be the most valuable document you can prepare to ensure your child will have the life you envision after you are gone.
Your LOI will provide all the members of your Team, whether they are a legal guardian, sibling/family member, friend, community member, trustee, organization or professional- with first-hand knowledge of how to best care for your child,
Your LOI will feature factual information:
And more subjective information:
And to help you, while you are alive and well, as a:
Thinking through your personal vision of your child’s future is not an easy task but it is important to write down what you know. You can always update and add to this section but having it documented helps you:
The Emotional Factors section includes:
Insight: Consider the emotions of future caregivers.
When faced with the responsibility and the reality of their role in your child’s life, a future caregiver may feel emotions similar to those you experienced upon first learning your child’s diagnosis. It is important to put yourself in their place and look at it from the perspective that you first had—wanting to know as much as possible, as soon as possible.
How to help: The information you provide in this section will depend upon 2 things:
What to include in this section: Some parents choose to provide every detail of their child’s being, defining what makes them the person they are. They want to pass along their nurturing instincts so that the future caregiver not only sees their child from the outside but understands the child’s heart; what makes him or her happy, sad, or mad.
Other parents may be more analytical or factual about their child’s future. They may emphasize the accomplishments their child has made and set periodic milestones for both the family and the child to achieve.
Only you can decide what type of information you wish to provide. Whatever you decide, please remember that it is helpful to communicate closely with your child’s future caregiver(s) in developing your LOI.
Here are two questions to ask yourself to help you identify potential candidates for your team:
Besides you, who knows your child best?
Besides you, who loves your child? ❤️
The Family and Support Factors section includes:
No one can replace a parent but depending upon your Team's capabilities, availability and willingness, these are the folks you want making decisions on your child’s behalf. Some parents do not have people in their lives who can fulfill these roles but that is OK; there are qualified, caring professionals you can prepare to step into roles when you die or are no longer able to do all you do.
A note about service providers. Included in your LOI will be several different individuals and agencies that will be in contact with your child. Some will be paid employees of government agencies and have specific responsibilities to meet the needs of your child in his or her capacity. You should identify the agency that each employee works for so that the future caregiver will know who to contact and what to expect from their services or supports. There is often a high turnover of support staff in human services provider agencies throughout the country, so it is particularly important to be in regular contact with the agencies and keep the contact information current. It is also a good idea to introduce future caregivers to these individuals early on.
Providing the money to keep supports going- and empower your team.
Here are a few subtle, but important, planning tips to be mindful of:
This is information of importance to future trustees, estate executors, and those individuals who will handle your financial matters in the event of your disability or death.
The Financial Factors section includes:
Your advisory team. A well-informed, skilled team of advisors, including all professionals and individuals who assist you in making important financial decisions, is key in helping future caregivers to follow through with your plans.
Include your values around spending and investing money. Take the time to communicate your values to help your trustee and others with fiscal responsibility. They need to make important decisions on spending and investing your assets to meet your goals and maintain the lifestyle that you have achieved for your family and for your child. It has become common for individuals to leave an ethical will or legacy letter sharing their stories and communicating their values. Personal and financial situations often change. It is important to review this information regularly with your advisors and make any appropriate changes.
This section provides information about the legal and estate planning documents that will assist others in the event of your disability or death.
The Legal Factors section includes:
Work with a qualified estate planning attorney, ideally with knowledge and experience working specifically with families of individuals with special needs.
The Government Benefit Factors section is where you should include any and all government benefits that your child is currently receiving. It is also important to document how these funds are used for your child’s needs. It will also be helpful to provide your Team with a directory of state agencies and resources to contact for future needs.
Government benefits and eligibility are predetermined. Planning to maximize and protect your child’s eligibility is paramount to your child’s future security and independence. Many families, however, choose not to utilize government benefits for a number of reasons. If this is the case in your family, you should make certain to express it.
What a wonderful gift you have given to your child and everyone in his or her life. Now, onward to making sure you will have the resources to fund your plan and they are properly aligned with your trusts and estate plan.
We are Certified Financial Planner ProfessionalsTM and our expertise is in financial planning, managing your financial resources and advising you, from an objective viewpoint, about the big decisions in your life.
For more than 20 years we have worked with families like our own, to plan for their future and the lifetime support of their family member with special needs. Putting together all of the elements - the people, the money and the legal documents- transforms your vision into a plan for a life that is greater than the sum of its parts.