Memorandum of Intent in Special Needs Planning

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 Special Needs Planning in Your Estate Plan

Most parents regard providing for their children as a critical estate planning priority. When providing for a special needs child, however, additional care must be taken to give financial support inside your estate plan because direct donations might cause more harm than good.

If your child receives government assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid, a direct gift of money or assets could endanger their eligibility for such assistance.

When your child reaches the age of majority, the law considers them to be a legal adult, regardless of their abilities or functional level. As a result, the worth of your child’s resources will be used to assess their eligibility for SSI and Medicaid.

Gifts made to your child, whether while you are alive or after you die, can quickly push your child’s resources above the eligibility threshold. Fortunately, such a scenario can be avoided with diligent estate preparation.

Special Needs Planning Memorandum of Intent

A memorandum of intent, sometimes known as a letter of intent, is an estate planning document made by the parent of a disabled child. The document memorializes your child’s medical history and needs for your child’s future guardian or caretaker to be well-equipped to fulfill your child’s needs in the case of your death.

The letter expresses your expectations and objectives for your child, as well as the child’s desires and aspirations. It should be given to the guardian and the special needs trust trustee.

What Information Is Included in a Memorandum of Intent?

The letter contains specific details regarding your child’s medical care, such as the names and contact information of doctors, therapists, and hospitals.

The letter of intent also covers your child’s daily routine, favorite pastimes, favorite foods, and foods to avoid in their diet. It also discusses your child’s educational experiences, how you want your child to be educated in the future, your child’s desire to have a career, and any skills your child possesses.

You may provide information such as class types, school names, preferred teachers, and extracurricular activities.

The residential arrangement for the child is a crucial consideration that should be addressed in a memorandum of intent since your child may wish to live close to family or friends or prefer a more independent lifestyle.

You must also supply your child with the government benefits they receive, such as Medicare, Medicaid, or Medi-Cal, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) / Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Final arrangements for your child’s death and burial should also be made, including the type of service, funeral home, and burial plot.

A well-thought-out letter of intent frequently has a medical component as well as a practical component and, at a minimum, should include the following:

  1. A family history that includes where and when parents were born, raised, and married, as well as descriptions of siblings, grandparents, other relatives, and special friends, as well as current contact information for all.
  2. Public agencies, churches, individuals, and private organizations in your child’s neighborhood assisting people with disabilities.
  3. Your child’s residential care requirements, including past and present accommodations and anticipated future needs.
  4. Past records, present enrollment, specialty teachers, future educational goals, specific interests and abilities, extracurricular activities, and educational emphases, such as vocational, academic, or communication.
  5. Employment counseling, including work your child may enjoy, sheltered workshops, activity centers, and businesses in the community that may be of interest to your child.
  6. Relationships that are social, behavioral, and personal to your family and child, such as relatives, special friends, teachers, and caregivers.
  7. A regular day in your child’s life, including favorite foods, music, books, television shows, and rituals.
  8. Current medical information, including doctors, therapists, clinics, hospitals, and current drugs and therapies. The parents should explain how and why the prescriptions are given, as well as detail treatments that have not worked.
  9. The final expression of a parent’s love, hope, and hopes for their kid

When writing a letter of intent, parents should not be intimidated and they should use a clear, conversational approach that avoids legalese. Furthermore, the document should be reviewed regularly to reflect any modifications.

What Exactly Is a Special Needs Trust?

A Special Needs Trust (SNT), sometimes known as a Supplemental Needs Trust (SNT), is a type of irrevocable living trust that allows you to set aside assets to “supplement” government assistance programs such as SSI and Medicaid. The assets stored in an SNT can be utilized to pay for comforts and indulgences that public assistance money cannot cover. A properly structured Special Needs Trust ensures that assets can be set aside for your kid without fear of losing vital help. One of the many extra benefits of establishing an SNT is that other family members may contribute to the trust while they are still alive or as part of their estate plan.

How Frequently Should I Revise the Memorandum of Intent?

After you’ve written the letter, make sure you sign and date it, and go over it at least once a year, amending it as needed. Because the letter of intent is such a significant legal document, it should be kept with your other estate planning documents for your child.

Considerations When Writing the Letter

  1. The letter should include contributions from parents, brothers, sisters, and other family members.
  2. The letter’s contents should represent your expectations. Others may find it impossible to meet severe criteria in the future due to unforeseen situations. You must believe that individuals carrying out your strategy will do their best to meet your expectations.
  3. You should tailor the letter’s preferences to increase the beneficiary’s independence and growth. Your desires should not precede the needs of other family members or service providers.
  4. You should write the letter in non-technical language. It should convey to the reader your deepest desires.
  5. Unlike your trust, a letter of intent is not legally binding. Its contents, however, should not conflict with your trust. Please send your letter (with any subsequently updated letters) to the legal firm of [NAME OF YOUR LAW FIRM] so that we may ensure that it is per the terms of your trust.
  6. Review and, if necessary, amend your letter regularly. Check that it still reflects your expectations and those of other family members. What you want in your letter may change depending on your age and circumstances.

Your letter should contain the following information:

  1. Begin the letter by stating the beneficiary’s full name, date of birth, place of birth, trust name, date of the trust, and Social Security Number.
  2. Next, list the organizations that relatives, trustees, and guardians should contact for guidance and assistance (e.g., the local chapter of the ARC, the law firm of [NAME OF YOUR LAW FIRM], case manager, care providers, physicians, therapists, close family members, and friends, etc.).
  3. List any government benefits for which the beneficiary currently receives or may be eligible.
  4. List any agreements for the beneficiary’s ongoing care with a corporate trustee, care manager, or other body. Include the recipient’s name and address and any specific instructions.
  5. List the beneficiary’s present job or the type of job you believe they might prefer if applicable.

Should I Hire an Attorney?

Writing a memorandum of intent can be an emotional and stressful process. Consult an estate lawyer who can prepare the letter once you have gathered all the essential paperwork and information.

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