Making Cents: Planning for Children with Special Needs or Dependency Issues
By: John P. Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST, RLP®
Between what appears to be a larger percentage of children born with special needs and the recent epidemic of opioid addiction and dependency, many parents need specialized guidance in order to best assist these children and ultimately, protect their assets from the issues that can easily drain any estate.
The core issue is the child’s ability to manage and properly utilize money. On one side, parents would devote nearly everything that they have, or can get their hands on in order to help, or save a child. On the other hand are the concepts of their own financial independence and ultimately, the fairness for all of their adult children.
While the parents are living and earning, care and attention should be devoted to your own financial independence. I’m not talking about new cars and vacations, I’m talking about being prepared for the day when you can no longer earn a living due to your own age, weakness or disability. Understand just how much you can afford to spend on your child without it throwing your life plans out the window with zero chance of recovery.
If you haven’t already, engage with a specialist in the areas of finance and law that may guide you to all of the state and federal resources available. Qualification is not easy because you need to qualify on two levels. First is the medical necessity part of qualification. If your child meets the level of disability required to access aid, that is only step one. Step two is the financial side of qualification. In general, if you have too much money you can expect to have a long application process that is likely to end in favor of the State’s.
Dependency issues are a bit trickier. Parent’s hold out faith and optimistically feel that their child will make it through their addiction period. Yet professionals know that once someone becomes addicted to controlled substances, that they may be only a bad day away from falling back into dangerous territory.
Beyond the lifetime of the parents, extra care needs to be taken to protect assets and to prevent them from being squandered. This calls for an estate plan with provisions allowing for limited access and protection. The ideal plan would protect against all of the funds being utilized for care, and in effect, disinheriting any of your other children.
The first step is the financial part. Decide how much you can afford to spend and what you are willing to do for all of your children. Then get a plan for deciding how the funds will flow after your death and who will be the trusted family friend, or professional to oversee this process. After these important financial considerations are properly addressed, you should document the plan utilizing an attorney with deep expertise and experience in special needs planning.
John P. Napolitano CFP®, CPA is CEO of U. S. Wealth Management in Braintree, MA. Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn or uswealthnapolitano.com. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation. John Napolitano is a registered principal with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. US Financial Advisors and US Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial. He can be reached at 781-849-9200.