Planning For Loved Ones With Special Needs
June 12, 2019
If you’re the parent, chief caregiver or guardian of a special-needs person, you live your life feeling like a tug-of-war rope being yanked back and forth by two powerful-but-competing pressures.
Pulling with all its might at one end is the pressure brought on by the financial, living, education and transportation needs of today. Pulling away at the other end – and playing over and over and over in your brain like an infinite loop – is the mantra-like fear: “What happens when I’m gone?”
All-too-often, that future planning falls by the wayside. And that’s understandable.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it takes about $240,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18. For a special-needs child or family member, that cost can skyrocket – and doesn’t end with the person “leaving the nest.” Indeed, the organization Autism Speaks says the “lifetime cost” of raising someone with autism or another type of intellectual affliction can reach $1.4 million to $2.4 million. The numbers would be roughly the same for a special-needs person with physical challenges.
Those hefty costs – for today and for the future – are one reason that special-needs caregivers live their lives experiencing the “tug-of-war” pressures. Another is the feeling of isolation.
But the fact is that you’re not alone. And you don’t have to be.
At any one time, nearly 9 million American families are caring for special-needs children. And you can hire an advisor who will help you plan for the future – so even if something happens to you, the “caregiving” that you’ve been providing doesn’t go away.
Those costs, and all the planning required to get ready for that “if something happens to me” day are daunting by themselves. But that pressure can be exacerbated by a feeling of isolation – even hopelessness.
The fact is that it’s never too early or too late to start. The only mistake you can make is to have no plan at all.
We’re here now to help you get started.
A Blueprint for Success
The fact is that every special-needs family faces unique challenges. And those challenges will evolve – or change outright – over time. But if you have a good plan – one that’s formal, and actually committed to paper – you’ll be more easily able to adapt to the new set of circumstances.
Any successful special-needs plan will have to have these two pieces:
- The Legal Component – The formal plan, developed with the help of an attorney who works in this realm.
- And the Financial Component – A strategy that allocates assets – and creates the income stream – to ensure the special-needs family member will be cared for throughout their entire life.
Let’s look at both pieces.
For the overall plan, caregivers and other involved family members should talk with an attorney who has an established track record in special-needs or disabilities law. But you don’t just want any expert: You want one you’re comfortable working with – since this could be a long-term collaboration. The attorney will help you collect and organize all the legal documents needed to protect your loved one’s eligibility for government benefits, while also protecting assets needed to guarantee long-term care and quality of life. These documents should address the person’s long-term care, supervision, asset protection and income management.
A well-rounded plan usually includes a will, a power of attorney, a medical directive and a “Special Needs Trust,” or SNT.
The SNT provides a family with an instrument in which they can set aside assets specifically for the care of the special-needs dependent. The trust details the relationship between three parties: The donor of the assets in the trust, the trustee and the beneficiary of the trust.
It also helps ensure that the inheritance doesn’t threaten the dependent’s eligibility for federal, state and local-government benefits.
Then there’s the income component.
A common challenge for a primary caregiver is planning income for his or her loved one’s lifetime, as well as their own. Having a discussion with a trusted financial advisor regarding a dependent’s needs and goals can get the conversation started to develop a comprehensive financial plan, which includes properly titling assets and allocating assets appropriately.
As you and your family navigate the different ages and stages of your loved one’s life, it’s important to work with this financial advisor to keep the financial plan updated. Planning for families with special-needs loved ones doesn’t have to be that emotional tug-of-war it seems.
SC&H Financial Advisors can help serve as your financial planning guide. Contact us today to learn more about how our services can help you and your family.
Advisory Services offered through SC&H Financial Advisors, Inc. SC&H Financial Advisors, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of SC&H Group, Inc.
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