Special Needs Planning in New Jersey
All of us must plan for the future. Parents have the additional responsibility to plan for their children. HOWEVER, parents who have a child with disabilities must bring that special needs planning to a higher level. What kind of planning is necessary for children with disabilities?
- Your child has his or her own hopes, goals, and aspirations.
- You should have a plan that is designed specifically to help your child to live a happy life that addresses his or her abilities to flourish.
- Your plan’s strategies enable your child to enjoy life today and in the near and distant future.
Whether you are developing the plan alone or with a Special Needs Planner, there are certain steps you should follow to develop a comprehensive Special Needs Plan. Such a plan should contain the following:
- You should envision what a joyful life for your child looks like for the present and the future. This includes his or her hopes, goals, and aspirations noted above. Your child has certain strengths and abilities that should be nurtured and encouraged. Two Caveats: include your child in this planning process (It’s his or her life you are planning); and revisit the plan annually, as things change. This first step is the guide for the other steps.
- You should plan the kind of life for your child that helps him or her to pursue daily routines in a happy manner. This should include details of his or her daily routines and preferences. Again, have your child provide input as he or she knows these things better than you. The purpose of this is the relief that knowing if something happened to you, someone else would be knowledgeable of all the necessary information that would enable him or her to love and care for your child. They would know what you and the child had planned.
- You should identify the resource services, government benefits, individuals, and organizations who can help your child to fulfill his or her attain the vision set forth in step 1. These should include: doctors, medications, counselors, allergies, his or her likes and dislikes. The plan should include important information such as: birth information, clothing sizes, dietary information, hygiene habits, recreational and leisure-time likes and preferences, anything else you deem pertinent for a caretaker to know.
- You should establish a financial plan to help pay for the resources listed in the previous step. Further, it provides payment for his or her needs after you are no longer available. It should address two important questions about your disabled child: (1) Who will pay for his or her expenses during adulthood? and (2) Where Will your child live and who will oversee his or her care after we are gone? The answers to these questions could include government and private benefits and services, including housing and income, if your child qualifies.
- Your plan should include your family background, including: you and your spouse’s backgrounds and those of your parents, information on your disabled child’s siblings or half-siblings, and any legal matters (wills, insurance, contracts which may pertain to your child, etc.).
- Finally, you must develop a legal plan that controls, protects, and transfers your property presently and in the future.
Many of the items above can be set forth in a Special Needs Trust (SNT). Setting up a SNT is the one of the most important parts in special needs planning. Please see our article on Special Needs Trust – A Roadmap for New Jersey.
Since a person’s needs and abilities change over time, all of the above should be reviewed and updated at least annually.