Special Needs Advisors
We understand the challenges you face.
To help families simplify – as much as possible – the complex journey of special needs, by providing a comprehensive plan that will provide peace of mind that you have provided the very best future for your family. We have the information and expertise to coordinate financial and non-financial services that can help you with your fears about what happens when you are gone.
Plan for Rising Expenses
According to the National Organization on Disability, did you know nearly 54 million Americans cope with special needs and the rising associated expenses?
Help with Benefits
According to the 2011 Torn Security Blanket Study, 88% of parents who have children with special needs have not set up a trust to preserve elgibility for benefits.
Plan for the Future
According to the 2011 Torn Security Blanket Study, 69% of families say they are very concerned about being able to provide lifetime care for their dependents with special needs.
Who Are We?
We are a team of Special Needs Advisors that focus on providing knowledge, guidance and advice to help families with special needs plan happy and financially stable futures. We share a common bond: as we are also parents, family and friends of people with special needs. Based on our personal experiences we have a thorough understanding of the complexities of special needs planning. We are dedicated to providing you with the highest quality service and advice, as well as the latest information on legal developments. Our team is designed to be thorough and committed to assisting you on this journey.ABOUT US
About Our Team
We will help you build a comprehensive special needs plan that will help ensure that your entire family, including your loved one with special needs, is protected and cared for, giving you peace of mind. We will help you identify and prioritize your life goals for two generations by understanding in detail your family’s personal story. We will coordinate a multidisciplinary team of experts to provide a person-centered approach to planning that is tailored to your unique circumstances and includes financial, legal and life plans.Our Resource Board
Elements of Comprehensive Special Needs Planning
How can you ensure that your loved one with special needs will be cared for and secure when others become their guardian or caregiver? Creating a financial plan and establishing a Special Needs Trust are critical to preparing for your loved one’s future, but you must also communicate your intentions and expectations of what needs to be done in the event of your death or incapacity. No one else knows your loved one as well as you do and you are the main repository of information concerning their likes and dislikes, needs and concerns. You also know in what manner you wish for their needs to be met, and how you prefer for him or her to be treated.
A Letter of Intent is the starting point of Special Needs Planning. It identifies your hopes and dreams for your loved one allowing you to assess your priorities and financial goals while helping to guarantee the overall success of your special needs plan. It is a document written by you, the primary caregiver, describing your loved one’s history, current status, the arrangements you’ve made and what must be done if something happens to you. It will serve as the primary source of information about your loved one, providing a roadmap for the future guardians, caregivers, courts and anyone else involved in your loved one’s life. A Letter of Intent consists of a family narrative, a summary documenting financial, legal, medical and other resources you have in place as well as a vision for your loved one’s life plan. It should be accompanied by a set of organized files with important information, documents and records. When you are no longer able to speak for your loved one the Letter of Intent is your voice.
A Letter of Intent is not legally binding, but morally binding. It is one of the most important documents you can prepare for the future as it provides comprehensive instruction and advice on your loved one’s needs that can minimize disruption and disorientation that will occur upon your death or if you are unable to continue as the primary caregiver. A Letter of Intent can be difficult and emotional to write. At Special Planning we will help you prepared a detailed Letter of Intent that will help your successors take over your loved one’s care.
Financial planning is based on individual values and directed toward the achievement of important goals. Financial planning and continued financial management can create a better quality of life for you, your family and your special needs loved one. In the case of special needs financial planning, the focus is to create the best possible life for the individual with special needs while taking into consideration the needs and goals of the entire family. The financial plan for an individual with special needs will address how to pay for private resources while maintaining eligibility for government assistance. Like the traditional approach, a special needs financial plan should be comprehensive in nature and include the standard financial planning considerations of investments/cash flow, legal, taxes, and risk management. But a special needs plan should also include a Special Needs Trust and Letter of Intent which is the starting point of special needs planning.
Special Needs Planners frequently work with parents, grandparents and other family members who are involved in providing social, emotional, and financial support to special needs individuals. All relevant parties need to be appropriately integrated in the planning process to prevent catastrophic errors that can ultimately lead to the loss of government financial support. This integration includes a proper understanding of the way to give gifts or leave inheritances to disabled loved ones. At Special Planning we will work with you to identify your goals and coordinate a team of experts in Special Needs Financial Planning to help you achieve them.
If you have been providing care for a loved one with special needs, you most likely have thought about what would happen to them when you are no longer able to provide their care. A Special Needs Trust can be an important tool that will help you establish financial security for an individual with special needs both at the present time, and well into the future. It is established by placing funds and other assets under the control of a trustee. It is a legal document that is designed solely for the financial protection of an individual with a disability. It is the only legal way for a beneficiary (the individual with a disability) to receive the benefit of unlimited extra income without sacrificing valuable state and federal benefits. Many people make the mistake of leaving assets to their disabled loved ones through a will. This is problematic because acquiring assets, such as a lump sum of money or real property, can disqualify your loved one from receiving government benefits.
By setting up a Special Needs Trust you can avoid these issues. Because the trustee, usually a family member and/or corporate trustee has total control over the management of the funds, and the beneficiary does not, government program administrators, like the ones from SSI and Medicaid ignore the trust assets when considering eligibility. As such, the trust can only be used to pay for supplemental expenses while necessities are still covered by government benefits.
There are several ways in which the special needs trust can be funded, either during the lifetime of the grantor or upon their death. The trust allows family members to gift assets, leave inheritances or life insurances to a person with special needs without disqualifying him or her from government benefits. With proper financial and legal planning, the family can have the peace of mind that the individual with special needs will enjoy a comfortable lifestyle even after his or her parents are gone. At Special Planning we can help you coordinate both the financial and legal resources needed to guide you through the process of establishing a Special Needs Trust.
It is important that all individuals have a Will. A Will is the cornerstone of an effective estate plan as it provides for the disposition of property after your death. A Will appoints someone to manage your estate and close your affairs after you die; it transfers your property, real, financial and other valuable assets to those whom you wish to inherit them and, directs the payments of debts and taxes from your estate. It is particularly important for those who want to continue to provide for a special needs individual.
If you die without a Will, your property will be distributed according to the laws of the state. If you have an individual with special needs and have not gone to the courts to seek guardianship, the courts will choose a guardian for that individual. A Will allows you to nominate their guardian. Furthermore, if a child with special needs requires public benefits as an adult, the child must have very little assets. If your estate passes without a Will it is very likely that your child with special needs will inherit your assets. Inheriting money or assets would be disastrous because it would compromise their eligibility for public benefits. At Special Planning we will help you coordinate the writing of your Will to include inheritance provisions for your special need individual.
When an individual is unable to make responsible decisions pertaining to his or her personal, medical, legal, and financial needs or manage day-to-day affairs, a guardian is necessary. Any individual age 18 and over is presumed to be competent in the eyes of the law unless declared otherwise by a formal adjudication of incompetency. At that point, without court approval, parents no longer have the legal right to act on their child’s behalf. It is a common misperception that where an individual is intellectually or physical disabled, the person’s next of kin, such as the parent of a child who reaches age 18, or the children of an elderly person who suffers a loss of cognitive function “automatically” becomes that person’s “guardian”. To the contrary, the legal presumption that every person age 18 or over is competent can only be addressed through a formal guardianship proceeding.
Only a Court can appoint a guardian. A parent cannot, without judicial oversight, appointing a guardian for an adult child, and even the naming of a guardian under a Will for a minor child requires a Court Order to effectuate the Guardianship. Parents cannot name a guardian for an adult child under their Will, as Pennsylvania’s guardianship procedures are the exclusive means by which a guardianship can be created. Therefore, It is critical that once a special needs child reaches the age of eighteen parents have themselves appointed the legal guardians of their son or daughter, if he or she cannot make financial, and/or medical decisions for themselves, and that parents assign that responsibility to someone well trusted and capable after they are unable to care for their child. At Special Planning we will help you evaluate the need to seek guardianship and assist in coordinating the plan.
A Power of Attorney is an important planning tool used by a disabled person and his or her parents/caregiver. It is a document that legally entitles an agent to act on another person’s behalf in certain circumstances and with specific powers described in the document. It is a flexible document that can be drafted as broadly or narrowly as circumstances require. Unlike a guardianship, a Power of Attorney does not require a judicial declaration of incompetency. Factors to consider prior to creating a Power of Attorney include the nature of the individual’s special needs, the source and type of their assets and whether they have sufficient capacity to understand his or her choices.
Power of Attorney can be divided into two types financial and health care. The financial durable power of attorney addresses issues related to financial matters, education, public benefits and access to documents. The power of attorney for health care allows an individual, who is capable of understanding, to appoint someone else to make decisions as they apply only to medical care and health care decisions. It should be noted, to invoke this power of attorney a doctor must determine the individual is unable to make his or her own health care decisions. At Special Planning we will help you and your loved one evaluate the need for Power of Attorney.
An insurance safety net is important to secure a financial future. Families with little savings need insurance to protect their financial security especially if one of the family members is a special needs individual. The primary goal of Insurance Needs Analysis is to make sure there is enough money to support the family in the case of death, disability or illness. In addition, assets or insurance is purchased to fund a Special Needs Trust for the individual with special needs. A critical question in this analysis is answering the question of who will take care of the caretaker in the case of disability or old age. A family must consider, how much life insurance is needed to supplement income lost due to the death of a spouse; are spouses covered by disability insurance in case of their own disability; is there long term care in place; how much and what type of insurance do we need to fund a Special Needs Trust. If this type of planning is not done, families could potentially see their assets depleted in areas that were not planned and funding earmarked for the Special Needs Trust are no longer available. Insurance Needs Analysis is one way to cover the basics to ensure the quality of life for the family and the individual with special needs. At Special Planning we can direct you to experts that can perform an Insurance Needs Analysis and make recommendations to secure your financial future.