Sunday, May 15, 2011

Westchester Recap: Special Needs Financial Planning

On Tuesday, May 3, 2011, the Westchester Branch of NAA NY Metro hosted an event centered on a critically important but difficult to face subject - financial planning for your special needs family member. As the numbers of children with autism have increased, so too will the number of adults with autism who need specialized financial arrangements to preserve benefits to which they are entitled but also to allow them to live full and meaningful lives. NAA NY Metro brought together a panel of professionals: NAA NY Metro board member Stuart Flaum, who specializes in special needs family planning with AXA Advisors, spoke about insurance issues. Sheryl Frishman, of Counsel to the law firm of Littman Krooks LLP, spoke about legal issues and trusts. Michael Sanders, President of Clark Dodge Asset Management, LLC, spoke about investments and presented a case study of a special needs family.

Together, this dynamic trio presented families with invaluable information concerning planning for children with special needs as they become adults with special needs. None of us likes to think about these issues - it forces parents to face tough questions, not only their own mortality but also the issue of whether or to what extent their child with special needs will be able to function independently or at what level. As the panel discussed, parents need to look at many issues and are wise to seek professional counsel for this very complicated area of estate and life planning. Because adults with special needs may be eligible for certain governmental benefits, parents need to know that their financial planning efforts may negatively impact their child's eligibility for services he or she very much needs if not correctly planned. Parents need to understand the roles of insurance, investments, and the various trust options that parents might consider in providing for their child as he or she becomes an adult. Moreover, parents need to plan and take action to establish themselves as their adult child's guardian before the child becomes emancipated at age 18. Many parents may not realize that they cannot simply continue to make decisions for their child after age 18, even if the child is unable to do so. Rather, the parent must be legally appointed the adult child's guardian. Failure to formalize the guardian relationship can lead to many difficulties. Moreover, parents need to be aware that their school districts are required to begin planning for transition from educational services to adult services years before a child turns 18. Westchester ARC has many valuable resources on transition planning on their website - simply search "transition" on their site and read up on your child's rights and the district's obligations - many parents are unaware of transition planning, which can be a valuable tool as your child grows up.

Many thanks to our speakers for sharing their wisdom with us concerning this important but very emotional and difficult subject.

No comments: