Special Needs — Special Needs Require Special Planning
Write a letter of intent
Spell out detailed instructions on how you want your child cared for. Update this letter periodically and include your
child’s medical history, current status, medications, developmental milestones, preferred activities and foods. Be
sure to include the child’s Social Security number, birth date and your financial information. Potential guardians
should get a copy each time you update the letter. Keep in mind, while a letter of intent is an important way to
communicate information about your child, it is not considered a legal document and its influence may be limited.
Special needs children often have an extra special quality and they deserve extra attention in planning for their lifetime care.
Draft a will
A will can contain similar instructions as the letter of intent, but a will is a legal document. The will should name a trustee and guardian for your child, along with instructions on how to carry out your wishes. The trustee should be someone who has good financial judgment and who has some knowledge of investing and taxes. A trustee can be a financial institution or an individual. The guardian should be the person who is most comfortable with the child and whom you can trust to impart the same life values as your own.
Understand government benefits eligibility
Government benefit programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid can provide some basic support services, but eligibility is income dependent and varies by state. A child under age 18 may not qualify for benefits if the parents make too much money. Once the child turns 18, they are considered an adult, he or she would have to meet new income thresholds. The child may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, which are based on their own earnings record.
Set up a special needs trust
Special needs trusts can help manage assets and are frequently used to pay for rehabilitation, educational services or medical services not covered by other income sources. They can also cover quality of life enhancements, like entertainment and vacations. These trusts are often funded by life insurance benefits, retirement plan proceeds or cash gifts, with funding dictated by instructions in a will. A special needs trust is not a do-it-yourself endeavor, it is a legal document. Work with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and who is knowledgeable about government benefits.
Careful planning can help ease your mind
Special needs children often have an extra special quality and they deserve extra attention in planning for their
lifetime care. Let ING help you financially prepare yourself.
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ING and ING representatives do not offer legal or tax advice. Seek the advice of an attorney or tax advisor prior to making a legal or tax-related decision.