Parents Will Have Questions, Must Initiate Conversations

Rana McNamara

April 28, 2016

This past weekend, my son competed in tennis at the Special Olympics Championship for our region. It was a terrific event, filled with the torch lighting ceremony, the athlete’s oath and the medal ceremonies. Amidst the many high fives and joyous faces of the champions stood the many proud families and coaches who cheered and took photos.

Another bonus is the time spent with parents that I have known for over twenty years. Our comradery is heartfelt and time-tested. We have encouraged each other along the way, sharing triumphs and frustrations. While catching up with these parents, I explained my new role as a member of the Advisory Committee for the MassMutual Center for Special Needs at The American College of Financial Services and asked if they would talk about financial planning.

Moving at Different Speeds

Just as with our kids, we were all at different stages. Some had established a special needs trust by working with an attorney. Some were thinking about making some financial plans. Yet, most of the parents had never met with a financial planner. The more we talked, the more we realized that we had many questions. Navigating the future for our sons and daughters has always been complex. From schools to health issues to transition periods, there is a maze of options and resources to untangle.

Planning for our adult children’s financial future was positively daunting. In part, it may be due to our own comfort level with financial planning. There are so many questions. One fundamental concern is ensuring that the financial plan preserves the individual’s eligibility for public benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Supplemental Security Disability Income (SSDI). State and federal regulations change frequently.

A Variety of Questions

Other questions were basic. How do you design a Special Needs Trust? What are the options for funding it? Is there a way to ensure that there is no erosion of assets? How do taxes affect the Trust?

Most of us knew that there limitations on what the Special Needs Trust can fund. For example, the Trust can provide for educational programs, recreational activities, transportation and home modification. Yet, how does one determine the amount needed to meet individual needs now and during the individual’s lifetime?

As we imagined the future for our adult children, we hoped that they would have the resources to enjoy a healthy and independent life. Would these financial vehicles safeguard a quality of life for them? In 2014, families of individuals with disabilities could utilize a new savings option through the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. This account can be used for long-term expenses without sacrificing eligibility for public benefits such as SSI. How does this new option fit into families financial planning?

Planning for Different Stages, with Help

Every stage of our son or daughter’s life has introduced new questions to consider and paths to take. As my friends and I spoke, it was plain that finding the right professional to help sort through these issues was essential. Just as we sought out specialists for education and health concerns, again, we will need to turn to a professional with specific financial planning training to help meet these challenges. I was pleased to share the information about the MassMutual Center for Special Needs, which aims to be the nation’s leading voice on financial planning for professionals supporting special needs families. With the expertise of ChSNC™ (Chartered Special Needs Consultant) advisor, families can be assured that they can find some answers to these questions and help secure the best possible future for their loved one.