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When There’s a Will, There’s a Way

May 17, 2022

Caregivers of Individuals with Special Needs Have to Prepare

The shoemaker’s wife never has any shoes is proverb that means those closest to an expert don’t benefit from his/her expertise. There may be some truth to the adage when we realize all of us have heard stories of a lawyer dying intestate, i.e., without a will. There’s always plenty of time to get our affairs in order until we get run over by a cement truck. It’s especially important for caregivers of individuals with special needs to have a plan in place in the event something unexpected happens.  

Caregivers, Check the Checklist

Steps that caregivers of individuals with special needs should take are not unlike those of all caregivers, but with just a little extra:

  • Last will and testament
  • General durable power of attorney for financial affairs
  • Durable power of attorney for health care
  • Draft a “Letter of Intent”
  • Have a guardian appointed (if upon reaching the age of 21 such a person is unable to manage his/her affairs)
  • Provide financial security by establishing a special needs trust

Will—this document is the basis for any estate plan. If one dies without a will, the state usually distributes the assets to the children equally. Assets dispensed to a person with special needs could disqualify them from government benefits. In addition, the state assigns guardianship to minors and any adult loved one incapable of handling their own affairs. A will in conjunction with proper estate planning can ensure that an individual with special needs receives proper care while being assigned a guardian of your choice.

Power of Attorney—a legal document giving a trusted person the power to manage financial, property, investments, or medical needs in the event of becoming incapacitated. Powers can be broad or limited.

Letter of Intent—not a legal document but rather a guide containing important information. It is the opportunity to put in writing the diagnosis of the person with special needs, the functioning of said person and how you wish him/her be raised (if a child) or cared for. Information contained in the record may include the person’s favorite activities, religious preferences, food choices, nighttime rituals, vocational arrangements and/or educational preferences.

Guardianship—a guardian is person legally powered and charged with the duty to care for someone incapable of managing his/her own affairs. Who that person is, or succeeding persons are, is of critical importance and needs to be spelled out in the caretaker’s will.   

Financial Security—all people require resources for general living expenses like shelter, food, medical-care, education, etc. Individuals with special needs often require additional funding for higher out-of-pocket medical care and/or education expenses. Quality of life issues such as recreation also need consideration. A careful analysis should be conducted to establish what the special needs person will require during a lifetime. A trust fund can then be created to provide those monies that exceed government benefits.

Planning Requires Professionals

Instituting a solid plan for a loved one with special needs not only benefits that person, but also brings the caretaker peace of mind. The first step toward the right course of action should be seeking professional advice from a respected attorney and trusted financial advisor.   


Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative. Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. New South Wealth Management and Cambridge are not affiliated.