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If we have learned anything these past few years, it’s that life is fleeting. With the new year now upon us, carve out a bit of time out to cross off one to-do item that will be key to the future of your child with special needs.
For families with children with disabilities, worrying about their loved one’s life in the years ahead is ever-present. Special needs planning allows you to provide for your children upon your death and name a trusted person to step in as a legal guardian. After choosing a guardian, drafting a Letter of Intent is critical to safeguarding your child’s future.
If a guardian ever needs to take responsibility for your child, a Letter of Intent — also known as a Memorandum of Intent — can give the individual a greater understanding of your child’s needs, making the transition smoother.
Even when you trust the person you nominated as a guardian, the individual might not know how to care for your child. A Letter of Intent prevents confusion or miscommunication from adversely affecting your child’s future.
Although Letters of Intent are not legally binding, they can provide valuable information, guiding your child’s caregiver through important decisions.
With a Letter of Intent, you can give your child’s guardian detailed instructions that are not fleshed out in legal documents. To get you started, here are some suggestions on what to include:
As your child’s family and friends may be vital connections in your absence, list their full names, contact information, and relationship with your child. In some cases, maintaining longstanding friendships can be just as important as keeping up family ties. Children may also have significant connections with their favorite teachers and mentors. Be sure to include details about the activities your child enjoys, from clubs to religious activities.
Your Letter of Intent should be a living document, which you update periodically as your child’s needs and preferences develop. With the start of 2023, block time on your calendar to start – or review and update – the Letter of Intent for your child, striking irrelevant details and adding new developments. As a Letter of Intent is a vital part of your overall plan, you should update it just like you would update a will or other estate planning document.
Since Letters of Intent are not legally binding, they will not take precedence when they conflict with legal documents such as trusts and wills. Your entire estate plan should reflect your wishes for your child.
Speak to your special needs planner to learn more about incorporating a Letter of Intent into your plan for your child.