Broker Check

What's So Special About Special Needs Planning?

By Paul Goyette

When you first learned that your child had special needs, you probably began analyzing your home life, your child’s education and other immediate concerns. In time, you realized that your child’s needs would continue to evolve. How would you pay for medical expenses that insurance didn’t cover? What types of programs would your child qualify for as an adult? Where would your child live if something happened to you? 

There are so many things to take into consideration that you may feel overwhelmed. You need a solid financial plan to help you make sense of a complex situation. Here are some reasons why working with a financial planner trained in special needs situations is not only a good idea but is also necessary.

Brings objectivity to a very emotional topic: A financial planner can look at a situation from a "big picture" standpoint. Traditional planners will look at the hard data, but a special needs planner will, more importantly, understand the story beyond the numbers and how all those pieces fit together to make a whole. The first step of every plan is to create a vision of what you want for your child and talk about what keeps you awake at night. Knowing those two things can make the difference between a plan consisting of only numbers and graphs and a plan that creates a map to your child’s future. 

Identifies options and provides guidance: A great planner will present you with more than one option and provide sound direction. She breaks down the pieces and explains them in easy-to-understand terms. She has a knowledgeable staff to help with special needs situations and an efficient system already in place. When you walk into her office, she knows both your time and your money are precious and always remembers the sensitivity of the topics at hand. 

Focuses on legal options: It is essential to have the appropriate legal documents written by a legal source. You may need a special needs trust or even a payback trust. As a parent of a child with disabilities, you also need to make sure your estate plan is solid. If you aren’t prepared, then your child’s care may suffer as a consequence. Special needs planners do not give legal advice, but they excel at providing a practical view of how an appropriately written trust will factor into your plan. A poorly written trust can jeopardize your child’s eligibility for benefits. 

Maximizes benefits and programs: A special needs planner has a benefits department, which specializes in the myriad government and local benefits programs your child may be qualified to receive. This specialized area plays an essential role in your planning. Your planner can appoint a specialist to your family to work with you through the application process, which allows you to focus your attention and time on other things.

Understands that transition is the key: Once your child reaches adulthood, benefits can, and will, change. A planner will be able to guide you through this process utilizing not only financial options, but program options to make the transition as easy as possible for both you and your child. 

Remains accessible: A special needs planner is accessible for the many developmental and situational changes your child will go through. Some planners work on an hourly basis, while others require a yearly retainer. Each option has its place depending on the complexity and nature of the situation as well as your preferences. A planner should be available to answer questions throughout the duration of your engagement.

Gets involved with the community: A planner who is involved with special needs organizations is informed about the issues that his clients face. Another benefit of being an advocate or activist in the special needs community is her knowledge of non-financial programs, support groups, recreational opportunities and many other resources your family might be interested in. 

Financial planning is an essential part of providing the future care of your child. Every parent wants to know that their children will be safe and happy when they are not able to be there, lead a life as independently as they are able to and to have lives of their own. A financial planner who focuses on special needs can provide objectivity, guidance, knowledge and, most importantly, empathy to your family. Working together to create a solid financial plan, you and your planner can help create confidence that you have a plan in place for your child’s future. 

 Financial planning offered through Northeast Planning Associates, Inc. (NPA), a registered investment adviser. Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment adviser and member FINRA/SIPC. NPA and LPL Financial are not affiliated. 14-343