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  • Writer's pictureBrian Cotroneo

The Necessity of Special Needs Planning

Updated: Jul 5

Couple working through a special needs plan
Special Needs Planning isn't a luxury, it's a necessity

If you are the parent, grandparent, or caregiver of an individual with special needs, you have probably asked yourself how to prepare for an uncertain future.  The challenges are considerable and financial institutions are increasingly refusing to work with special needs families.  So, how do you navigate the unknown?  Our suggestion: engage in a formal Special Needs Planning process. 

Special Needs Planning is different than standard wealth management – it is a process to create the future appropriate to the needs, capabilities, and wishes of an individual with a physical, cognitive, or mental impairment.  It requires knowledge of government benefits, robust forecasting, multi-decade investment strategy, and coordination of financial, legal, tax, advocacy, and care providers.  Make no mistake, it is a considerable effort; planning for an entire lifetime of support is not something done on a whim or over a weekend.

However daunting the prospect may seem, we believe Special Needs Planning is a NECESSITY, not a luxury.  If you have a child with special needs, consider the following:

Your child will live one of two lives: the one YOU plan, or the one the GOVERNMENT provides.  The government plan is not generous – it will support an individual at the poverty line and no higher, something enforced with income and asset limitations on the receipt of government benefits.  Assistance such as public housing is provided only after jumping through considerable hoops.  In your absence, decisions regarding your child’s residential, medical, & financial matters will be made by a state assigned guardian – a stranger whose primary focus is providing the bare minimum support based on state & federal guidelines, not the happiness or personal development of your child.

Lives of success & fulfillment don’t happen by accident – YOU need to define the standard and provide the vision.  To avoid the above situation, you must create a plan that provides the following:

  • Income to support physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs for a lifetime, on a not-to-interfere basis with government benefits.

  • A residential solution most appropriate to your child’s needs and your standard of quality.

  • A team of concerned and informed professionals with a fiduciary responsibility to care for your child, and with a primary focus on their health & happiness.

For a plan to be effective, it must reflect the needs of YOUR CHILD.  Generalized, “rule-of-thumb” approaches won’t hold up to reality.  In most cases financial advisors & insurance agents aren’t trained to calculate lifetime cost of care or manage benefit eligibility.  This means one of two things: their proposed solutions are (at best) a guess designed to complete a transaction, or they will put the responsibility on you to make the hard decisions without data or support.  Proper planning requires a trained & credentialed specialist, not a generalist.

Special Needs Plans don’t exist in a vacuum, they must be integrated with the family’s broader plan to be successful.  Caring for a child with special needs doesn’t mean abandoning all other family pursuits such as retirement, education, or legacy – although it does complicate them.  Decisions related to these goals will impact your special needs plan and vice versa; even extended family and friends must manage gifting & estate planning to avoid unintended but catastrophic effects on the individual.  Attempting to plan by yourself or in a stand-alone fashion can jeopardize their situation as well as yours.

Special Needs Planning is a challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone. 

For more information on Special Needs Planning or to speak with a Chartered Special Needs Consultant, please contact the Johnson Cotroneo Group of Moors & Cabot.

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