Creating a Life Plan for Your Child with Special Needs

By Jessica Searcy Kmetty

Estate Planning looks different for parents who have a child with special needs.

The Life Plan

For many, Estate Planning involves directing assets to be disbursed in a way that benefits those we leave behind. You might have a simple Will or you might create a Trust to have more flexibility. If you have a child with special needs, your estate plan may be designed to provide for their needs without disqualifying them from government benefits.

Taking care of the formalities are essential, but as a parent, how can you be assured that your child will lead as full and complete a life as possible after you die?

Typical estate planning documents fall short of creating a plan for a child who has been dependent on you to look out for their best interest and to know them as humans. Enter, the Life Plan.

A comprehensive life plan leaves nothing to chance. A life plan is a labor of love that outlines all that is, all that has been, and all that you hope for in the future.

It doesn’t have to be professionally written, but it can be.

You don’t have to follow a specific template, but you may.

Developing a life plan is an ongoing process, because your child’s needs and desires will change over time. This is especially important if you have a child (minor or adult) with special needs who may not be able to articulate their needs and wishes or advocate for themselves.

What goes into a Life Plan?

Like any other well-designed plan, you begin with the end in mind. What does your child’s best life look like if you’re no longer in the picture? Articulate the major goals in each area of their lives:

  • Residential placement
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Social/recreational
  • Religion/faith
  • Medical care
  • Behavior management
  • Caregiver/advocate/guardian
  • Finances
  • Final arrangements

Then, outline how those goals will be achieved:

  • What skills will your child need to develop?
  • Who will be involved in the process?
  • What resources will they need?
  • What are the roadblocks that may hinder them?
  • What will your child’s support system look like?

The Letter of Intent

After you contemplate the life plan for your son or daughter and you have a fair idea of what you would want their life to look like after your death, communicate those ideas and knowledge to future caregivers in a letter of intent. While it’s not a legally binding letter, in some cases, it may be reviewed by a court in their consideration of legal proceedings.

Perhaps more importantly, a letter of intent will allow you to communicate your desires to future caregivers, information that will prove invaluable to them. It’s the documentation that expressly offers up your wealth of knowledge about your child. All the things that would take someone else weeks, months, maybe years to figure out. It also outlines your hopes and desires for their future and creates a written legacy for them after you’re gone.

Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this content, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for you or your portfolio. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter (article) serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Searcy Financial Services, Inc.

The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  

Published for the blog on September 27, 2021 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.