Tips on Planning

Tips on Planning

Here are a few quick tips to help you with your planning for a Special Needs loved one. This is a short and simple list, created in order of importance, for when you are just starting out with your own planning. Please contact us if you need some help putting your plan together.

  1. Get Organized – put all of the important information that a future caregiver will need into a convenient binder (check out our Life Plan Builder).
  2. Create a Circle of Support – determine which family, friends, and professional members are going to be a part of your plan.
  3. Your Legal Framework – make sure you have a good estate plan with trusts, wills, and powers of attorney for yourself and establish a Special Needs Trust (the best vehicle to provide supplemental care for your loved one’s future) for your child’s benefit.
  4. Determine your Resources – you need to determine how much money you have, how much you need for your child’s future, and how you are going to make up the difference (if necessary).

Check back often for help with your planning issues as we will continually offer tips on various topics relating to your Special Needs loved one.

Building a Life Plan

What is a Life Plan and do you need to build one for the Special Needs person in your life?

The answers to these two questions are simple. First, a Life Plan is merely a plan that will provide the right people in your life the instructions, the support group, and the resources to carry your Special Needs loved one through their lifetime after you are gone. Second, if you have a family member with a disability of any kind, then yes, you need to build a Life Plan for them.

Think of a Life Plan as a form of transportation with three specific components: the vehicle, the driver, and the fuel to make it go. Building your Life Plan is literally joining these three components together and creating a system for the future care of your loved one.

The Vehicle.

Legal Docs First, you need a vehicle that will carry your loved one through their lifetime after you are no longer around. This vehicle is simply your legal instructions to future caregivers. Your specific instructions on how you want your loved one to be taken care of in the future are derived from the legal documents within your estate plan. Your legal documents include your Last Will and Testament, Living Trusts, Powers of Attorney, etc. However, critical for a family with a Special Needs individual is to have a Special Needs Trust. A Special Needs Trust is your foremost vehicle and can be created while you are alive or could be written within your Last Will and Testament to be created upon your death. Either way, the Special Needs Trust is designed to be for the benefit and protection of your Special Needs loved one and must be considered when creating your Life Plan.

Secondarily, although not specifically a legal document drafted by your attorney in your estate plan, you should have a set of Caregiver Instructions that lists all the details on who the Special Needs person is, what they like and dislike, how you hope they will be cared for, and where you envision them to be in the future. This important document should also be a part of your Life Plan.

The Drivers.

Teamwork Who is going to operate the vehicle described above? You need competent drivers that understand the instructions you have created and know how to implement these instructions. Generally, the drivers are the people that make up your circle of support for your Special Needs loved one. They include caregivers, family members, trustees, professional advisors, friends, and anyone else that will play an important role in the life of your loved one. With a Special Needs Trust, all of the people involved will coordinate through your chosen trustee. The trustee is ultimately responsible for disbursements, taxes, accounting, investments and maintaining benefits for your loved one. Occasionally, the trustee is a family member; however, being the trustee is an enormous job and may put a burden on the relationship between this person and your Special Needs loved one. Therefore, we suggest you consider a professional corporate fiduciary to serve as the trustee. A professional can provide the expertise, experience, and knowledge to do the job right and be able to drive the vehicle with precision and absolute care.

The Fuel.

The Fuel - Your Nestegg Finally, do you have enough funds to care for your loved one for the rest of their life? The money that will fuel your vehicle (fund the Special Needs Trust and your Life Plan) is a critical component of your plan. Depending on your loved ones medical condition, life expectancy, ability to generate income, and their expected living expenses, you will need to determine how much money is needed to fund their future needs. The difference between the overall needs of the individual and any current or future expected resources (government benefits) they may have available will provide you an indication of how much fuel is required to adequately run your plan. Your fuel will come from a variety of sources (retirement plans, life insurances, current home, etc.) and it is wise to make sure you have the funds needed to care for your loved one’s future.

Build Your Plan.

We have designed a great platform on this website to help you build your own Life Plan. The instructions, checklists, and forms are all available to any active member of this site. Check out our membership levels and consider signing up today. Building a plan will give you the peace of mind you deserve in preparing for the future of your Special Needs loved one.

Some of the images above are from

Step-by-step Life Plan Building

Wheel Chair
Image by Renjith Krishnan at

You have a Special Needs loved one in your life and you’ve briefly thought about what may happen to them in the future if you are no longer around. However, you have not put together a concrete life plan in the unforeseen event that you are not there to care for them. If this is you, please read on…

There are several steps you should take to construct a Life Plan for your Special Needs loved one. A Life Plan is a great resource that can help create a seamless transition between you as the primary caregiver and any future caregivers that will step into your shoes.

Step 1: Create a set of Caregiver Instructions – develop a personal letter from you to the future caregivers that describes your wishes, goals and desires for your loved one. Additionally, this document provides insight on the individual’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, and overall personality.

Step 2: Personal Information – create a collection of personal contact information on you, your family, any friends, case workers, advisors, or other important people that would be considered part of your circle of support.

Step 3: Legal Documents – compose a list of (and copy of) all the important legal documents for your family. This includes Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, or other agreements or contracts.

Step 4: Financial Information – this section allows you to store information on all of your finances as it relates to your loved one. It will include your Net Worth and what will be passed on to the loved one, what the income and/or expected expenses of the loved one are or may be in the future, and a calculation of the necessary amount needed to pass on to your loved one to care for them for their lifetime.

Step 5: Taxes, Insurance and Other – this step offers an opportunity to track taxes (for historical information), list the insurances and keep of copy of policies, or to place other pertinent information regarding your Special Needs loved one.

The more organized your plans are the easier it will be for a future caregiver to take your place in the future. If your Special Needs loved one will always be dependent on you, you must have a plan in place to allow caregivers to step in and continue your same level of care. Providing as much detail as possible will help make the transition much better for you, your family, and especially your Special Needs loved one.

Please check out our Life Plan Builder with specific instructions, checklists and forms on each of the above steps to help you create your own Life Plan today.

Special Needs Trust Distributions

A Special Needs Trust document will provide a trustee specific instructions in providing for the beneficiary. Generally, the trustee has sole discretion in making distributions for the “health, education, maintenance and support” of the beneficiary. Typically that means that the beneficiary can receive a distribution to help maintain an accustomed standard of living. However, the trustee must be careful to avoid providing unlimited funds at the risk of depleting trust assets or damaging other benefits. Primarily, income from other sources along with government benefits should be considered when making an important distribution decision to ensure funds and eligibility are protected.

If you are in the process of creating a trust document, make sure your document is explicit in the instructions it provides to the trustee on making a distribution to the beneficiary. This will protect the funds as well as avoid putting the trustee in an awkward position when making tough decisions.

Please feel free to contact a Golden Financial Services advisor with specific questions or concerns about your Special Needs Trust document or trust administration.