Critter Corner: Building a Life Care Plan for a Special Needs Loved One

Dear Magic,

Our daughter has special needs. We have money set aside for her in a special needs trust and we have an ABLE account set up. We want to do more to plan for her future. I heard about something called a Life Care Plan. What is it and what are all the things that are included in one?

Thanks,
Juana Dumore

Dear Juana,

You’re right — it’s not enough to just have money set aside for your loved one, be it in a special needs trust or an ABLE account. You’ll need a written plan that will specify how you’d like your family member to be cared for.

A life care plan for a special needs child (very different from a life care plan for an elderly adult) is a document that identifies a child’s future medical and supportive care needs. The content of a life care plan is highly individualized to the needs of your child and contains a detailed analysis of the type, quantity, timing and cost of your child’s current and future care needs. These are routinely done in connection with children who are injured, as part of a personal injury settlement, but can and should also be done for all children that have special needs. There are consulting companies that specialize in preparing these types of life care plans.

For children with special needs who have turned 18, and are capable of signing legal documents such as a power of attorney and an advance medical directive, it is also strongly suggested that they sign these documents as soon as possible. At the Farr Law Firm, our advance medical directive includes an extremely detailed and comprehensive long-term care directive which can be used in addition to, or in lieu of, a formal life care plan.

Life Care Planning for a child with special needs is about your child getting the best possible care after your death or when you become unable to make decisions for your child because of your own incapacity. Similarly, life care planning for an elderly adult is about helping the elderly adult get the best possible care when long-term care is needed. For elderly adults, it involves helping our clients navigate the complex maze of long-term care and how to best pay for long-term care. For special needs planning clients, it helps clearly communicate your child’s future needs and a plan for others to follow. Below are some things you should consider when it comes to Life Care Planning:

Determine your plan: To provide your loved one with the best care, sign or have your child with special needs sign, a document such as our long-term care directive, that will list, among many other things: medical needs; dietary needs, restrictions, and preferences; grooming habits; sleeping habits; leisure habits.
Review your beneficiary designations: Carefully consider who should be the beneficiary. The biggest mistake you can make is to name your special needs child as the beneficiary of a qualified plan or life insurance policy, as this could destroy his or her ability to get or keep government benefits.
Make sure the services you are recommending are available in the patient’s geographical location. Always consider the individual variables that make the plan a custom fit to this patient and family. There are no generic life care plans!

Many individual trustees are concerned about assuming responsibilities for a loved one. If you show them the resources are there and give them directions to dispense their fiduciary duty in a Life Care Plan, it’s not as daunting. For assistance with your life care planning and other estate planning, elder law, or special needs planning needs, contact the Farr Law Firm.

Hop this helps,

Magic

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