Special Needs Planning: Important Documents to Keep on Hand

For families with loved ones who have special needs planning and preparing for the future takes time and thoughtful consideration. Care options, estate planning and how the special needs person will be cared for when you are gone are common concerns.

Through advances in day-to-day care and modern medicine, people with special needs are living longer, healthier lives, which makes proper estate planning more important for you than ever.

When you have a child or loved one with special needs, many legal documents are needed. Once you have started planning for your loved one’s future, keep these ten documents on hand with your estate planning records:

  1. Legal papers such as birth certificate, Social Security Card, and health insurance cards. Also consider keeping certified copies of these important documents.
  2. A letter of intent. This document provides future caregivers important information about your child. It can outline information about care needs, food preferences and other important information about your child’s daily needs. Once you have a letter of intent, it should be updated regularly to ensure that the correct care and personal information is included.
  3. Your advance health care and financial directives. Documents such as powers of attorney and living wills can save your loved ones time and heartache should you become incapacitated.
  4. Final arrangement instructions and wishes for yourself. Making final arrangements is difficult for everyone. Giving clear instructions for your family to follow will make the process easier and less stressful.
  5. Information about your major assets. You should create a list of all your major assets including bank accounts, stocks and insurance policies. Also include account numbers and the contact information for your banker, broker and insurance agent.
  6. Copies of special needs trusts. Having a copy of these documents will protect the assets intended for your special needs child. You should also include information about where the original document is kept and whom to contact when it is needed.
  7. A great amount of thought and consideration goes into choosing your child’s guardian. Be sure to include any guardianship documents you have created, to help expedite the process of obtaining guardianship.
  8. A list of government benefits that your child receives and copies of the application forms. These forms will help future guardians and caregivers when applying for other benefits.
  9. The names of case workers and government agencies you have worked with when finding services for your child.
  10. Any other important documents such as special education information, medical history, or tax returns.

Once you have all the necessary documents together, create a system to keep them organized. Also be sure to tell any fellow guardians or family members where you keep the documents. Staying organized and updating important information regularly will make special needs planning easier and give you the peace of mind you need to know that your child or loved one will be properly cared for when you are no longer alive or able to do so.

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