Financial Planning for Adults with Special Needs: What You Need to Know

Financial planning is essential for individuals with special needs, as it plays a crucial role in ensuring their long-term financial security and overall well-being. Adults with special needs often require specific considerations and strategies to address their unique circumstances. Let’s explore the key aspects of financial planning for adults with special needs, covering important topics such as government benefits, special needs trusts, guardianship, and healthcare planning.

  1. Understand government benefits

    Government benefits can provide vital support for individuals with special needs. Familiarize yourself with programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), as well as Medicaid and Medicare. These benefits can assist with medical expenses, income support, and access to essential services. Be sure to research eligibility criteria, application processes, and any potential impact on other benefits to ensure you optimize all the resources available to you. The guidelines on Medicaid and waiver programs vary by state so do your homework.

  2. Establish a special needs trust

    A special needs trust (SNT) is a powerful financial tool that allows individuals with special needs to maintain eligibility for government benefits while preserving additional assets to fund quality of life items like TV’s, iPhones/Android Phones, tablets, vacations, etc. By setting up a SNT, Medicaid & SSI can help provide the basics, but help utilize other money left for your loved one to fund your loved one’s interest, ambitions, aspirations, etc. Consulting with an attorney experienced in special needs planning is crucial to ensure the trust is established correctly and aligns with your loved one's unique situation. Please set up a meeting with me here if you are looking to set one up.

  3. Decide on a guardian, advocate, or alternative support for decision making

    When someone with special needs reaches the age of majority, their parents or caregivers may need to establish legal guardianship. Guardianship assigns decision-making authority to a responsible adult who can make important financial, medical, and personal choices on behalf of the individual with special needs. If you’re in the situation where your loved one lost the ability to make decisions for themself prior to reaching the age of majority, guardianship simply continues what has transpired for the past many years prior to your loved one reaching the age of majority. Keep in mind that this can be costly, in some cases very appropriate, but not your only option. It's important to consult an attorney to understand the process and requirements for obtaining guardianship in your jurisdiction. If full guardianship is not necessary, alternatives such as power of attorney, supported decision-making models if your state recognizes them, or a conservatorship may be more appropriate and allow your loved one to lead a more independent lifestyle.

  4. Develop a comprehensive financial plan

    I know what you are about to say, “There is no way I can plan my finances because of all the other stuff going on!” We hear this a lot, but creating a comprehensive financial plan is essential to address your long term needs and the long-term needs of individuals with special needs. The plan for your loved one should consider various factors, such as living arrangements, medical expenses, education and vocational training, and future support services to name a few. But don’t forget about your plan. Let’s work together to develop a roadmap that encompasses savings, investments, insurance, and estate planning for you and your loved one with special needs. Once developed, make sure you regularly review and update the plan to adapt to changing circumstances and goals.

  5. Evaluate health insurance options

    Access to adequate healthcare is crucial for individuals with special needs. Understand the health insurance options available, including private plans, employer-sponsored coverage (this could be your plan even if your loved one is over the age of 26 but is dependent on the plan provisions), Medicaid, and Medicare. Review coverage details, including deductibles, co-pays, and coverage for specialized therapies and treatments. You can always consider supplemental insurance policies to bridge any gaps in coverage.

  6. Seek professional advice and community support

    Navigating the complexities of financial planning for individuals with special needs can be challenging. Make sure you seek guidance from professionals experienced in special needs planning, including attorneys, financial advisors, and accountants. Be sure to look for qualifications, designations, or other items to demonstrate expertise in these areas such as the ChSNC® designation. Keep in mind that just because someone holds themself out to be qualified in this area, doesn't always mean that they are. Ask tough questions or enlist the help of another professional to help you ask the tough questions in order to vet your team. A team of professionals who specialize in this area can provide personalized advice and help you understand the legal, financial, and tax implications of different decisions. Additionally, connect with local support groups, advocacy organizations, and online communities to learn from others who have gone through similar experiences.

Financial planning for adults with special needs is a critical aspect of ensuring their long-term financial security and quality of life. Remember, each individual's situation is unique, so it's essential to tailor your financial plan to his or her specific needs and aspirations. With careful planning, you can help provide a secure future.