Finding time to map out your family’s financial strategy may be difficult, despite a busy life — and especially when a family member has a disability or other special need. While difficult, it can be extremely important.
If you have a family member with special needs, planning is critical. Creating a financial strategy can help your family:
- Resolve current issues by addressing those things you struggle with each month (e.g., transportation, respite care or finding family time) and the ongoing concerns you just don’t seem to have time to tackle (naming a future guardian, creating a transition plan, etc.).
- Prepare for future needs by taking action to address college expenses, funding your retirement and other long-term savings goals.
- Establish a financial safety net to provide for your child or other family member with special needs as he or she grows old.
- Create a legacy for you to pass on to other family members, friends, institutions or charitable organizations.
- Reduce stress — when you have peace of mind that your finances are in order, you can focus better on other issues at hand.
Before You Take Your First Step
To help you get organized and prepare for a time when you can no longer provide care for your family member with special needs — whether temporarily or permanently — be sure to consider completing a Letter of Intent. This document records personal, medical, educational and social information about your family member with special needs. Once you've documented this information, regular updating will help ensure that anyone providing care for your loved one will have the information they need to maintain quality of life, ultimately providing you peace of mind.
You Have Help
Creating a financial strategy may seem overwhelming. You may not even know where to start. Your first step should be to connect with resources that can help you approach your finances in manageable parts, one step at a time to help you achieve your hopes and dreams. Key resources that can help in your decision making process include family members, a Financial Professional with special needs experience, such as a Special Care Planner or ChSNC1, an attorney with special needs experience, an accountant, banker, social workers and advocates, and medical providers. Each of these individuals has something to contribute that will add to the financial strategy discussion.
Taking the first step can be the hardest, but a Financial Professional can help you to get started. Your Financial Professional can help you to review your current situation, help you identify your immediate and long-term goals and discuss possible solutions to help you meet your needs.
Once you've taken the first step and connected with a team to help with your plan, you might find that gaining momentum is easier than you imagined. Next steps may include making a family budget, juggling how money you save is distributed, or completing a health care proxy and living will. You may also find that tasks you think are more time consuming, such as writing your will — or even impossible, such as funding a special needs trust — may be less complicated and indeed attainable when you have the information and resources available. The important thing to remember is that you set the pace. Life can be hectic, so you should approach each step in the planning process when you’re ready.
It’s Your Move
It is important to consider your family’s future when establishing a strategy. No one professional can provide everything a family needs. An integrated team comprised of an attorney, a CPA and others, such as social workers and caregivers, or a Financial Professional who specializes in working with special needs, all working together is the best way to establish a strategy that will help you feel secure. We recommend you work with professionals who are qualified, experienced and involved in the area of special needs. The first step is yours to take.
1 The Special Care Planner is a title used by MassMutual financial professionals who have received advanced training and information in estate and tax planning concepts, special needs trusts, government programs, and the emotional dynamics of working with people with disabilities and other special needs and their families. The certificate program was offered by The American College in Bryn Mawr, PA, exclusively for MassMutual financial professionals. Additionally, a designation of Chartered Special Needs Consultant ( ChSNC), which evolved from the certificate program, is now offered through the American College for financial professionals. MassMutual financial professionals who have completed the certificate program, or received the ChSNC designation can use the Special Care Planner title.
The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.