A special needs trust is vital if you are the parent or caretaker of a child (or adult child) with mental or physical disabilities. A trust can make certain that your child is cared for properly, that they have enough financial support to live a comfortable life, and that they can have financial security without the threat of losing their government benefits, such as Medicare or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
However, while the trust itself is important, the optional Letter of Intent that often accompanies the trust can be just as important to the future health and wellbeing of your child.
The Letter of Intent is a document that can be made available to your trustees, your family members, your heirs, and your child’s caretakers. It can be changed and updated over time. Very simply, it outlines all information about your child that you believe is important to their health and happiness – information that your child may not be able to communicate easily himself.
Here is a sample of information that is commonly listed in a Letter of Intent:
- Your child’s biographical information. Include your child’s general history, his personality, his family members, and any other important background information.
- Your child’s medical history. Include the names of your child’s medical professionals, past surgeries, diagnoses, medications, and allergies.
- Your child’s educational history. Include where your child has been educated and what kind of learning environment works best for him.
- Your child’s financial needs/expenses. Include a list of regular expenses, including medication, food, shelter, and clothing. Note any and all special needs.
- Your child’s skills and abilities. Include what your child is capable of, what he excels in, and what he needs assistance with.
- Your child’s friends. Include a list of friends, community members, and family members that are a part of your child’s life. Don’t forget neighbors, school friends, and adults that might be important to your child.
- Your child’s likes and dislikes. Many special needs kids have specific likes and dislike – for example, a child with autism may require certain types of comfortable clothes or follow a specific diet. Remember that no piece of information is too small.
- Your family’s religious and cultural traditions. Include regular religious or cultural activities, family philosophies, and religious or cultural contacts and resources.
- How to work with your child successfully. What might upset your child, and how is your child best disciplined? You know your child best and any information like this could help your child’s future caregivers greatly.
- The goals and wishes you have for your child. Are you working toward your adult child living on his own, having a part-time job, or finishing high school? Make sure your goals are known by sharing them in this letter.
While the special needs trust itself will make certain that your child has financial support after you are gone, the attached letter of intent can ensure that your child’s caretakers and trustees know and understand your child, as well as your wishes for your child. A California estate planning attorney can help you draft a letter of intent and make sure that it contains everything it needs to help you child have a long, happy, and healthy life.
To learn more about special needs trusts, letters of intent, or estate planning with a special needs child in California, contact The Law Office of Janet Brewer today: (650) 325-8276.