Many years ago, our lives were changed when we learned that Jason, our 18-year-old, college student son, had been in thrown from a car driven by a friend who fell asleep at the wheel. His traumatic brain injury led to six months in 2 different hospitals, including several weeks in ICU, followed by a year at an out-of-state rehab center. He had to relearn how to eat, walk, talk, and just about everything else.
The next seven years were eye-opening for us. We had to navigate securing good medical care, establishing guardianship and conservatorship, applying for Social Security disability benefits, finding and employing full-time caregivers, and setting up a trust with special needs language. And that was on top of the trauma of losing our son – first when he was so badly injured and second when he passed away from a seizure just days before his 26th birthday.
Due to modern medical advances, people with disabilities from birth or due to injuries or illness can live much longer now than ever before. This means that planning for their future is even more important for these families and for you as their financial advisor.
Some areas where financial planners and advisors can provide information and resources include:
- Government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Medicare and Medicaid
- Special needs trusts which can assist families in providing assets without reducing government benefits to family members with disabilities
- Settlement trusts which can be used to receive proceed payments as a result of personal injury claims to avoid tax liability and disruption of government benefits
- Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts and how they work
- Resources for finding caregivers
- Referrals to attorneys who specialize in special needs trusts
- Referrals to national and local organizations that support families with special needs family members
According to a 2017 Investment News article, there are over 57 million Americans with a mental or physical disability that may require a lifetime of care, but fewer than 1000 advisors that specialize in special needs planning.
If you already have clients with special needs family members or an interest in learning more about how to help this segment of the population, a good place to start might be the American College’s Chartered Special Needs Consultant® program.
The need for planning help for special needs family members continues to grow. Why not be the planner or advisor in your area to fill it?