Special Needs Planning: A Multigenerational Effort

Special Needs Planning: A Multigenerational Effort

A daughter and sibling steps up to bear a heavy load

Let’s step into Sharon’s shoes. She’s the sister of Andy, who is developmentally disabled. Their elderly parents now count on Sharon’s help for shopping, getting to doctor appointments and overseeing their financial affairs.

Sharon lives the closest to their parents, so by default, the bulk of their care has become her responsibility. With their own failing health, her parents can no longer take care of Andy. Without long-term care planning, whether through savings, insurance or both, all of this family care becomes Sharon’s responsibility.

This is a heavy burden to place on anyone

This is a signifiant responsibility, especially for someone with a career, which is the case with Sharon, a CPA. She has two kids, a husband and a dog, and her life gets really nuts for at least three months every year. Sharon just turned 40, and she’s trying to save money for her kids’ college and her own retirement. Some days it all looks completely impossible.

With a special needs child, the needs grow exponentially

We talk a lot about being proactive, doing comprehensive estate planning that includes Living Trusts. But when there’s a family member with significant disabilities, the stakes quickly get higher; planning for their care becomes a family affair that transcends generations. Siblings need to be involved in the planning and care of their special-needs family member.

Parents of special needs children are focused on planning for a time when they will no longer be there to care for that child. Planning must cover a range of issues:

  • Who will manage the assets set aside for the child?
  • Who will oversee the child’s care needs?
  • What financial planning must be done now to ensure there are adequate assets to provide for that child?

Planning and financing two retirement strategies

As parents of special-needs children plan for retirement, they need to be developing and financing two retirement programs—one for themselves and one for their special-needs child.

Sharon’s story illustrates the importance of financial planning

Many parents of special-needs children envision their special-needs child living at home with the parents throughout their lives. That’s a good strategy, but if the child outlives his/her parents, it’s short-sighted. Adjusting to a new living arrangement can be traumatic for special-needs individuals. It takes time and stamina to research and leverage government and community benefits to reduce the burden on the other family members.

Does your family need to create or update a Special Needs Trust?

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