Thursday, January 19, 2012

Importance of Life Care Planning

Planning for the Future: Life Care Planning is an Important Tool for Families with Special Needs

By: Kelley Stokesbary, CLCP, MSOTR/L
Stokesbary Life Care Planning
Phone: (859) 396-5612

As the parent of a child with Down Syndrome, you understandably worry not only about meeting your child’s needs currently, but also in the event that something should happen to you rendering you incapable of providing care. Knowing exactly what those needs are currently, as well as in the future, can be difficult for a parent to determine. Are you doing everything you can to promote your child’s independence? What options are available for additional therapy services? Should I be consulting with specialists, and if so, whom? Where will my child go after high school? Will she be able to live on her own? Who will care for him after I am no longer able? Frequently parents simply do not have the time or the resources available to determine and plan for such needs in the face of daily care-giving. Fortunately, there are specially trained individuals known as Life Care Planners who are capable of helping you navigate through these difficult questions.

A Life Care Plan is a “dynamic document that provides an organized concise plan for current and future needs with associated costs” for individuals who have Special Needs (Source: International Academy of Life Care Planners). Basically, a Life Care Plan is a “roadmap” that promotes function, independence, and quality of life for an individual with Special Needs by outlining the medical needs and the financial burden associated with those needs. A complete Life Care Plan covers 18 categories ranging from physician and specialty appointments to therapy services to transportation and housing needs. It is very detailed and provides a clear look at what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and why it needs to be done to promote the individual’s independence and quality of life. While the full Life Care Plan is the optimal choice, if desired, the Life Care Plan can be abbreviated to cover only those areas particularly concerning the parent – frequently the areas of education/vocation and home care vs. facility care. In a recent MetLife study, over 50% of parents of adult children with disabilities voiced concerns about their child’s living situation and finances after the parent’s death. Despite that, less than 50% of those parents had created a will, estate plan, or Special Needs Trust, and less than 10% had created a Life Care Plan. A Life Care Plan, when combined with a will, estate plan, and Special Needs Trust affords both the parents and the child with Special Needs peace of mind.

Life Care Planning is still a growing profession with only a handful of Certified Life Care Planners in the state of Indiana. In choosing a Life Care Planner, look for a health care professional who has experience with the Special Needs population. Consideration should also be given to the Life Care Planners professional background – are they still practicing in their prior healthcare profession or are they solely completing Life Care Plans? For example, hiring a Life Care Planner who is an Occupational Therapist and is still actively practicing Occupational Therapy ensures that the Planner is current with new theories and technologies. Choosing a Certified Life Care Planners versus a Life Care Planner who is not certified ensures that the Planner has met the national credentials and is held to a Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct. Lastly, consider the cost – is the Life Care Planner charging an hourly rate or a flat fee? Both methods are commonly utilized, but if an hourly rate is being charged, ask for an estimate and a maximum fee amount. The cost for a Life Care Plan for a Special Needs individual typically is equivalent of having a will created.

Being proactive about developing a Life Care Plan certainly puts some work on your shoulders initially. However, not having one could mean more work, more stress, more problems to resolve, and more decisions to make under pressure – being reactive as situations arise again and again throughout life. So, take a deep breath, relax, and let a Life Care Planner help. For a complete listing of Certified Life Care Planners in Indiana, visit

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Life Care Goals

How do I Develop Life Care Goals?

by guest blogger, Jim Cherco

Having a child with special needs presents many large and difficult challenges. Often families that have a child or children with special needs struggle with doubts and stresses about how best to raise and provide for their family now and in the future. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, the specialized care of your child is surely a very significant concern for you and your family. The job of devising a strategy for support that is ongoing and provides the long-term funding that is needed may be daunting enough that planning never gets started, much less, put in place. Have you considered who will care for your child in the event of your untimely death? Do you have a strategy in place for financing the care of your child as you (and your child) age? Perhaps, someone in your family has agreed to take over the care of your child when you are no longer able to do so. This can present its own challenges and stresses.

When I moved here to the Indianapolis area from Illinois back in 1989 I learned about the famous breaded tenderloin that is “as big as your head”. I asked a friend how on earth one goes about eating such a huge sandwich and he replied, “one bite at a time Jimmy”. I think you should approach your strategy for developing a life care goals are for your special needs child in much the same way. Take on one thing at a time and then move forward until your goals are complete, then review them annually and adjust it for the changes that life brings your way. Having a strategy in place can help to provide the quality of life you want for the child you love when you are no longer able to care for him or her. It will also give you the confidence you need, as a parent of a special needs child. The stress level you experience raising your child has been likened to that of a combat soldier, and can shorten your lifespan by up to 9 to 12 years. Having a strategy in place now to care for the future needs of your child can reduce some of your stress.

Fortunately there are programs that the government offers in addition to Special Needs Trusts (SNT) and Life Insurance that can provide options and funding for the ongoing care of a loved one with special needs. A combination of permanent whole life insurance and term insurance along with an SNT, is a great way to help provide financial care for your loved ones after you’re gone. While making sure that the funding is in place for a special needs child is important, permanent life insurance can provide much needed cash in an emergency.

Making it a priority to keep an updated will at all times that coordinates with an SNT is key to making your wishes known. Additionally, a letter denoting your detailed wishes can prove to be an invaluable asset. It can be a great supplement to the will and provide your designated caregiver/trustee detailed information regarding habits and routine, medical concerns, and parental wishes about living arrangements. Only you know your child best, and if you’re not around to care for him or her, the person who takes over may find it very difficult to figure out what your child’s idiosyncrasies are and it could cause your child undue stress. Keep in mind this is not a legal document but a helpful companion to the will and trust.
No matter how your life is affected by special needs, you need to have a plan in place. We realize that you may be too overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. We can help you get started and see you through the process over the years. In addition, if you don’t have a support network in place, I would recommend contacting Down Syndrome Indiana or Easter Seals Crossroads.

Jim Cherco,

As your personal situations change (i.e., marriage, birth of a child or job promotion), so will your life insurance needs. Care should be taken to ensure this product is suitable for your long-term life insurance needs. You should weigh any associated costs before making a purchase. Life insurance has fees and charges associated with it that include costs of insurance that vary with such characteristics of the insured as gender, health and age, and has additional charges for riders that customize a policy to fit your individual needs.

"Registered Representative of and securities offered through One America Securities, Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC, a Registered Investment Advisor, 11711 North Meridian Street #350, Carmel, IN 46032-9422(317) 569-7600 Insurance Representative of American United Life Insurance Company (AUL) and other insurance companies. Semler Financial Group, INC. is not an affiliate of OnaAmerica Securities or AUL and is not a broker dealer.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tips for families with special needs

Financial Planning Tips for Families with Special Needs by guest blogger Keven Clasen at WestPoint Financial...

Tips for families with special needs

Provided by Kevin Clasen, a Special Care Planner with WestPoint Financial Group, LLC, a MassMutual Agency; courtesy of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual)

What is the sign of a good decision?®
It’s creating a life care plan for a special needs child.
A gift of cash from grandma, grandpa or anyone else could end up costing special needs families thousands of dollars in lost government funding and services – benefits that are critical in helping families pay the huge expense of caring for and educating their children with special needs.
Assets over a certain dollar amount may affect qualification for government benefits.

Key considerations
Consider the following tips for families and friends of children with special needs.
1. Do not give or accept financial gifts or assistance in the name of a child with special needs.
2. Deposit gifts into a special needs trust that benefits the child.
3. Be aware: there is no difference between gifts of cash, bonds, stock, property, inheritance, annuities, art and automobiles; they all count against the child’s net worth.
4. Plan ahead: any of these gifts can legally be given to the trust of a child with special needs and will not jeopardize government benefits if the trust is properly drafted in compliance with any particular state’s requirements.
5. Carefully monitor the child’s assets. Interest appreciation could increase their account value to exceed the $2,000 limit.
6. Volunteer to help care for a special needs child, so parents or guardians can have some time to themselves. Caring full-time for children with special needs can be very intense, expensive and demanding.
7. If your child has special needs, create a “Letter of Intent” to document exactly how you want he or she to observe the holidays and with whom, if you pass away – what type of gifts should or should not be given to them and what kind of life they want. A “Letter of Intent” template is available at:
8. Consult an attorney specializing in special needs planning with regard to the feasibility of establishing a Special Needs Trust and ask a financial professional for help funding the trust.
9. Review your life insurance, making sure the policy does not benefit the child directly; proceeds that are generally tax free may be paid into the child’s trust.
10. Offer to become a trustee, a very special personal gift to help families and children who need sincere, reliable, dedicated people to manage their children’s trusts and future.

Creating a special needs trust is the first step in creating a life care plan for a special needs child. This type of planning is crucial, yet highly complicated and difficult to do without help, because the issues and laws are complex. Services by an attorney specializing in special needs planning are essential. Your financial professional can help assemble an integrated team of professionals experienced in the area of special needs and, ultimately, assist in funding the trust.

© 2011 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA 01111-0001
Insurance products issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual),Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and its subsidiaries C.M. Life Insurance Company and MML Bay State Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082

The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. CRN201301-143562

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Importance of Special Needs Planning

Today's Guest Blogger is Gordon Homes, Special Needs Financial Planner and Parent with MetLife Center for Special Needs Planning to tell us more about the importance of special needs planning...

Caring for a dependent with special needs takes special planning.
Often we put off the task of planning as it can be overwhelming. This article will outline some of the steps you, with the assistance of a special needs financial planner and qualified attorney, should take to make their future more secure.

Letter of Intent

While the Letter of Intent is not a legal document, it is designed to serve as a roadmap for anyone involved with your child’s situation to utilize in understanding your child’s needs and your wishes for their future. This document is a working document, and serves as an ever changing caregiver’s guide, with everything from contact information for doctors,therapists, educators, government benefit offices, and providers, to medications, routines, schedules, food likes/dislikes, diet, etc.

Your Will

Addressing legalissues is a crucial step in planning for the future. Prepare a will if you don’t already have one or update your existing will to reflect what you want for your child. How do you want your estate to be distributed; who will be the guardian of your children? It may be especially important if you want to
limit assets going directly to a child with special needs. Without a will, generally state law will distribute assets to your children, including children with special needs.

Special Needs Trusts

Under current law, any inheritance of more than $2,000 ($1,500 limit for Indiana Medicaid) may disqualify individuals with disabilities from most federal needs based
assistance. A properly drafted Third Party Special Needs Trust (one set up and funded by a parent for example);however, may offer a means of protecting your child’s eligibility for these important benefits. Special needs trusts have evolved over the years, so an existing one may need to be updated. A special needs trust can typically be funded at any time with a gift or inheritance. If your child has or is in the process of receiving an inheritance, settlement, or back payment a First Party Special Needs Trust (one funded with the disabled individual’s money) may be needed. Having the correct type of special needs trust and engaging an attorney specializing in this area of the law is critical.


The guardian assumes responsibility for your child in the event of your death. Usually though not always, a family member will serve. There are two overarching questions the proposed guardian will be seeking to answer. How do I do this, and how will I pay for this? The planning process can help answer some of these types of
questions. The trustee oversees the assets in the trust. The guardian and
trustee can be the same or different people, each with a role in managing your
child, the money and the investments but all being involved and contributing to
their overall well being. Look at the options and decide what’s best for you and your family.


Sometimes sufficient financial resources to meet needs may not be available. The death of one or both parents can jeopardize your child’s financial future and quality of life. There are a variety of funding options for Special Needs Trusts. Discuss these options with a special needs financial planner and your attorney. What type of life do you envision for your child with special needs? How much money
will he/she need?

Gordon Homes, Special Needs Financial Planner and Parent
MetLife Center for Special Needs Planning

MetLife and its representatives do not provide tax or
legal advice. Please consult your tax advisor or attorney for information regarding your own specific situation. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MLIC), New York, NY 10166. Securities products and investment advisorybservices offered by MetLife Securities, Inc. (MSI)(member FINRA/SIPC) a registered investment advisor. 545 Metro
Place So. Suite 175, Dublin, OH 43017. 614-792-1463. MLIC and MSI are
MetLife Companies. L1211229081[exp1112][IN]