09 May Planning for a special needs child
Q. I have a special needs trust for my son, who is autistic but can live on his own. He’s 26 and has a low-paying job. What else can I do to provide for him for the future? I’m 57 but I’m not healthy.
A. There are many steps you can take to help your son years into the future.
First, you should consider a guardianship proceeding if your child with special needs is not able to manage his financial or medical decisions without assistance, said Shirley Whitenack, an estate planning attorney with Schenck, Price, Smith & King in Florham Park.
You should make sure your will also designates a successor guardian, she said.
Then, prepare a letter of intent to help the successor guardian or those designated to care for him to manage the transition after you die, Whitenack said.
“A letter of intent is not a formal legal document created by an attorney,” she said. “Rather, it is a memorialization of the child’s needs to guide the caregiver, guardian and trustee of the special needs trust in providing the best care for the child with special needs.”
She said the letter of intent should include information regarding the child’s schedule, his diet, including foods he may be allergic to, or which interact adversely with his medications, medical and dental care, and the public benefits he receives.
It also should include information regarding his living arrangements, social activities and religion, Whitenack said.
The letter of intent should be reviewed and updated periodically and should be placed with your estate planning documents.
You didn’t say what your financial means are, but if you’re considered “insurable,” you may want to consider a life insurance policy with the trust as a beneficiary, said Stephen Craffen of Stonegate Wealth Management in Oakland.
“Without knowing your exact circumstance, we are not sure this will work for you even if you do qualify for life insurance since the premiums may be high since you indicated you are not in the best of health,” Craffen said.
In these cases, he said, insurance companies may be willing to issue coverage but at a premium that is so high that it may be unaffordable.
If you do decide to consider this, he recommends you contact an independent insurance broker rather than an agent that only deals with one company.
An independent broker may be able to shop your case to five or 10 different companies to get the best rate, Craffen said.
“Many brokers also know which company might be the best choice depending on the nature of your health issues,” he said. “It sounds as if you have limited resources and may not have that much to leave to your son, so insurance is an option worth considering.”
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This story was first published in May 2017.NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.