5 Steps Special Needs Families Should Take
FOR GOOD AND FOR BAD, ITS BECOME CONVENTIONAL WISDOM THAT MOST FAMILIES SHOULD HAVE A LIVING TRUST. HOWEVER, WHAT MOST FAMILIES DONT REALIZE IS THAT MANY ATTORNEYS HAVE LITTLE OR NO EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH SPECIAL NEEDS FAMILIES, WITH DISASTROUS RESULTS.
As the populous has become more and more financially sophisticated over the past 50 years, more families are securing for themselves greater legal and financial protections. However, with this rise of families seeking out legal and financial protections, more and more special needs families are falling into costly, disastrous misinformation and disinformation.
What is often forgotten by all parties involved is that special needs families are in a category of their own requiring particular attention to how they go about protecting their loved ones. The key is a hand-in-hand understanding of the planning and dynamics of benefits, risks, solutions, and implementation.
Sadly, it is often attorneys themselves who are the largest proponents of selling legal products that are simply not suited for the special needs family. In this short article, we discuss five steps that you and your family can take to ensure you are properly legally and financially protected. You have to help your attorney understand the dynamics of your situation.
Step One: Put down the product mindset.
Financial and legal experts are widely accessible. They are everywhere. Similarly, the products that they sell are just as omnipresent. They sell packaged products that they believe will provide most families with an acceptable level of protection, return, etc.
However, not all products are suited for special needs families. Life insurance, for example, while generally a good thing to have in traditional families, could be disastrous for the benefits of a special needs child if the processes and strategies involving our families are not understood.
Remember: it’s not a product alone that can help your family it’s the strategy that is employed through the various transitions of your special needs family members lifetime.
Step Two: Find an expert.
While the vast majority of attorneys are well intentioned, seeking to provide the highest service possible to their clients, few have experience working with special needs families in understanding the dynamics of the special needs system. More important, even if they do have experience of working with families like yours, are they immersed in the special needs and disability worlds? Are they apprised of the latest concerns for such families? The answer for most attorneys is not as a rule.
Find an expert who is immersed in both the special needs and disabilities worlds. If possible, find someone who has personal experience being within a special needs family, but also has estate planning as their main background.
Step Three: Build a plan for life not a plan for product.
As mentioned above, products can be immensely useful in helping your family, but only if they are employed with a precise strategy over the course of the various life stages of your family. Think about it – the realities that your family faces for a child before the age of 18 is quite different than those faced afterwards. Similarly, after age 18, discussions of housing and gainful employment emerge. The key is understanding that you can design the life you want for your special needs family member: this is a planning conversation, not a product conversation.
Step Four: Have your expert and friends refer you to an attorney.
Would you place your (or your family members) livelihood in the hands of an attorney discovered in the Yellow Pages or a through a Google search? Rely upon the expertise of others to guide you toward the proper specialist who can help you install the needed legal protections.
Step Five: Signing paperwork is just the start. Follow up!
In our research, we have found, time and time again, that families who engage with the living trust / special needs trust process NEVER finish. Just because a document has been signed and a trust (or two) has been created does not mean that your family member is protected. Assets must be married to your trusts in a precise way to ensure your family’s plan. So, don’t let time pass without following up with your expert and attorney, such that you can have a solid plan of action in place.
In all, know that there are people out there knowledgeable in the special needs and disability worlds that are EXPERTS in this field. You can always recognize an expert by the way they talk about your family: they should be talking PROCESS and STRATEGY over product.
Image Copyright 2015 Lightstock, LLC and is licensed by Dignity Group, Inc. and is used with permission. Photo is for illustrative purposes only. Any person depicted in the photo, if any, is a model.