• 10 11 Essential Elements of a Successful Financial Plan For Families With a Member with Special Needs

    (Because families with members with special needs have more to do)

    1. Prepare a guide for the care of your loved one with special needs. This non-legal document may be the most valuable thing you leave behind.
    2. Surround your family with advocates and fiduciaries. Working with professionals who will put your family’s interests first will greatly improve your success.
    3. Get registered for all the services and benefits you are entitled to receive. If you live in Illinois, be sure to register your child with special needs on the Prioritization of Urgency of Needs for Services (PUNS) list. PUNS is the IL waiting list for services.
    4. Establish an ABLE Account. These tax-free savings accounts have broader distribution rules than supplemental needs trusts and no annual reporting requirements.
    5. Use Supplemental Needs Trusts rather than disinheriting your special needs family member. Quality estate planning documents drafted by an expert in the area of special needs law are critical.
    6. Develop a list of future caregivers. Choose the guardian or agent under a Power of Attorney, trustee, and future caregiver for your family member with special needs giving consideration to the skills needed for each role.
    7. Review beneficiary designations and account titles. Titles and beneficiary designations control how assets will pass. Proper naming can ensure no disruption in benefits.
    8. Coordinate your planning with your relatives’ planning. Make sure your extended family knows your plans and does not jeopardize government benefits being received.
    9. Assume that housing and employment will be significant challenges and begin planning for them as soon as possible. Transitioning into adulthood is many times more difficult for an individual with special needs.
    10. Create a safety plan that focuses on the challenges your family member with special needs may have in the event of an emergency. Practice your responses to fires, floods, tornadoes, and other potential disasters and alert your local public safety officers (fire, police, and paramedics) to your family member’s challenges.
    11. Seek other families facing similar challenges in your community and nationally. Connect with others who understand your joys and challenges. The support and information you will provide each other is invaluable.
    These tips are provided solely as a reference and are not intended to replace counseling from qualified professionals. Please contact Oak Wealth Advisors if you would like more information about our services.

  • 10 Common special needs Financial planning mistakes

    1. Failing to plan for assets to go into a special needs trust at the parents’ death. In order to maintain Medicaid eligibility, assets need to flow to a special needs trust rather than directly to the person with special needs.
    2. Purchasing term life insurance to fund the special needs trust. Term insurance is not a good solution for a permanent need. Some form of permanent insurance should be purchased.
    3. Drafting the special needs trust so that it is implemented upon the death of the second parent. It is best if the trust is operational immediately so that there is a place for gifts or bequests made before the parents die.
    4. Not establishing an ABLE Account. The tax-free accounts can be used to hold excess earnings, surprise gifts, and savings for major purchases without jeopardizing government benefits.
    5. Entering into a guardianship for your loved one prior to exploring all options for supported decision making. Guardianship can be appropriate in a number of situations but the transfer of rights from one individual to another should not be taken lightly.
    6. Ignoring federal and state benefits. Regardless of your level of wealth, having your loved one with special needs qualify for federal and state benefits provides both a safety net and an opportunity for them to access programs available only to those who meet eligibility requirements.
    7. Assuming the same family member should be the executor, trustee and guardian. You want people with the right skills for each role. The best solution may be three different people including one or more professionals.
    8. Not communicating with all family members about your planning. Proper communication with relatives about why you have a special needs trust will eliminate problems of gifts going directly to the child with special needs and jeopardizing the governmental benefits.
    9. Failing to communicate in detail how someone should care for the individual with special needs after the parents or caregivers are gone. Every individual with special needs should have a care guide. This non-legal document may be the most beneficial thing you leave behind for your family member with special needs.
    10. Putting a child on a parent’s credit card account. This simple act, which may seem like an easy way to help a loved one make purchases, has other consequences. The credit limit on the card is deemed to be an available resource to the child and may disqualify them from benefits such as SSI and Medicaid.
    These recommendations are provided solely as a reference and are not intended to replace counseling from qualified professionals. Please contact Oak Wealth Advisors if you would like more information about our services.

  • 10 Recommendations for Optimizing School Success

    1. Foster positive relationships with your child’s school team. Communicate frequently, request feedback, and provide compliments when successes occur. Developing trusted relationships with the education professionals contributes to greater success.
    2. Advocate effectively. You play an important role in your child’s success in school. You should not be afraid to request resources or question your team’s recommendations. Give the school district a chance to meet your child’s needs by letting them know your expectations.
    3. Have a vision. Share your vision for your child’s future and seek the resources necessary to achieve the vision.
    4. Keep detailed records. Document progress and setbacks in a journal, calendar, or on an app on your phone. Maintaining education reports, evaluations, test results, and classroom samples will be valuable in supporting your requests for services and keeping your child’s progress on track.
    5. Share your records with the team. Providing the school district with reports and recommendations from therapists, medical professionals, and others outside of school who work with your child will increase your odds of getting the supports you are seeking.
    6. Maintain communication throughout the school year. Ongoing correspondence helps everyone track progress towards goals and ensures that issues that arise are addressed quickly. Your school district will appreciate the efforts being made at home to reinforce educational and behavioral skills taught at school.
    7. Meet with your school team more frequently. I.E.P. meetings should not be the only time of the year when progress is discussed. In-person meetings reduce misunderstandings, provide opportunities to share ideas, and increase the likelihood for success during the year.
    8. Seek classroom inclusion. Many benefits arise from being in an inclusive classroom beyond just an increased mastery of the academic subjects.
    9. Plan for transition before your school initiates the discussion. Developing independent living skills is even more important than mastering academic subjects. Focusing on these skills can begin before high school and an earlier start may lead to a smoother transition into society after the school years are over.
    10. Know your rights. Every child is entitled to a free appropriate public education. School districts cannot deny services solely for financial reasons.
    These recommendations are provided solely as a reference and are not intended to replace counseling from qualified professionals. Please contact Oak Wealth Advisors if you would like more information about our services.

  • Top 10 Recommendations for a Successful Transition To Adulthood

    1. Start planning as soon as possible. School systems typically begin planning for transition with families when the child turns 14. Many agencies and advisory groups recommend starting 4 or 5 years earlier.
    2. Focus on transition planning in IEPs. The goals and strengths of the individual should be identified and helping them reach those goals, whether with standard course work or more specialized training, should be the focus of the plan.
    3. Determine if guardianship is appropriate. Guardianship requires a court appointment once the individual has turned 18. Independence needs to be weighed against safety and security. Full or limited guardianship are both options, as are limited powers of attorney for health care and property matters.
    4. Find an attorney who specializes in special needs planning. Having a knowledgeable advocate to guide you through the issues and connect you to community resources can be invaluable.
    5. Evaluate post-secondary or vocational education opportunities. None of us stop learning when we move on from high school. Additional course work may improve employment opportunities and increase independence.
    6. Ensure eligibility for government programs and benefits. At transition, all the programs that were delivered through the school system stop. Medicaid eligibility makes more programs available for young adults. Assume that applying for either SSI or SSDI will take longer than you expect.
    7. Be creative, be resourceful, and be realistic about employment. Most young adults with special needs are unable to find full-time paid employment. Targeting positions that utilize an individual’s strengths and interests will increase your chances for success as will identifying firms who have histories of hiring individuals with special needs.
    8. Seek opportunities for exercise and social interaction. Illinois has Special Recreation Associations (SRAs) that provide adult programs. Finding opportunities regardless of where you live is important for maintaining or improving physical and mental health.
    9. Locate appropriate housing. While independent living is often the goal, identifying and pursuing the optimal living arrangement for your young adult should be your priority. Start early as many preferred locations have long waiting lists.
    10. Find time for respite. Transition takes its toll on the whole family. Often the adult family member with special needs requires more time and attention as an adult than he/she did while in school. It is important for everyone to get a break from the challenges of caring for a young adult.
    These recommendations are provided solely as a reference and are not intended to replace counseling from qualified professionals.  Please contact Oak Wealth Advisors if you would like more information about our services.

  • 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Parents of Children with Special Needs

    1. I will take time caring for my own mental and physical health because I recognize that if I am not at my best, I cannot be the best parent possible.
    2. I will celebrate as many small achievements throughout the year as I can observe.
    3. I will schedule activities that get my entire family out into the community.
    4. I will laugh more. Raising a child with special needs is hard and laughing provides immediate stress relief and a reminder that there is joy interspersed among the challenges.
    5. I will get more comfortable with asking others for help.
    6. I will try to make it easier for others who want to help us to do so in a manner that will be welcomed by our family.
    7. I will continue to advocate on behalf of my child while encouraging him/her to enhance his/her own self-advocacy skills.
    8. I will seek new relationships with other parents facing similar challenges.
    9. I will find more information to assist my family with our activities or our challenges.
    10. I will hug and kiss my children every day.

    Implement as many of these resolutions as you can. However, if you can only do one, make it #10.

    These recommendations are provided solely as a reference and are not intended to replace counseling from qualified professionals.  Please contact Oak Wealth Advisors if you would like more information about our services.