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Why your special needs planning should include a letter of intent

On Behalf of | Aug 22, 2023 | Special Needs Trusts |

If you have a minor or adult child with a disability or serious long-term medical condition, it’s crucial to set up a special needs trust (SNT) to help ensure that they’re cared for should you pass away or become unable to care for them. These trusts allow parents to set aside assets to be used solely for their child. When established correctly, they also allow the child to receive government benefits for which they’d otherwise be ineligible.

One or more people need to be designated for two critical positions when you establish an SNT. One is your child’s legal guardian should something happen to you. It’s wise to have an alternate as well.

You also need to choose a trustee to handle the SNT. This may or may not be your child’s designated legal guardian or alternate. Some people find it prudent to separate the two responsibilities to better protect their child. Others prefer that a trusted family member serve both roles.

The purpose of a letter of intent

It’s recommended that parents include a letter of intent (LOI) with their SNT documentation and provide a copy to the designated guardian. This is basically a guide to caring for your child. You’ll likely need to update it if your child’s condition and/or abilities are changing. This is easy enough to do since it’s not a legal document.

It can be hard to know where to begin. Some experts recommend including the kind of information you’d provide if someone new was going to care for your child for a few days – even if your designated guardian sees your child regularly.

What information you provide about your child depends in part on what type of disability or illness they have. Examples include:

  • What they need help with and what they can do for themselves
  • What skills they’re working on developing
  • Any triggering things to avoid (words, movements, people, animals and so forth)
  • How to calm or manage them if they “act out”
  • What they enjoy doing, where they enjoy going and who they like to be around

Finally, talk a bit about what your hopes and goals are for your child and what kind of life you want them to have.

This is just a brief look at the importance of writing an LOI as part of your special needs planning for your child. With solid legal guidance from an experienced estate planning lawyer, you can rest assured that your child will always be cared for when you’re no longer able to do so.