Planning a secure, comfortable, and fulfilling future for a loved one with a disability is a huge responsibility. It’s not a task to be undertaken lightly, or without expert legal assistance.
A strong plan has two parts. The first is the drafting and executing of core legal documents including power of attorney, a healthcare directive, a Will, and a special needs or supplemental needs trust. Each of these documents serves an important role, but they are just the foundation.
The second—and often more delicate—part of a plan to care for a loved one with special needs is choosing the appropriate people to handle the many disparate responsibilities that are part of day-to-day life. Choosing the right trustee is a critical step that must be handled carefully.
The Trustee – Managing More Than Just the Money
Traditionally, a trustee is considered to be primarily responsible for managing the “wallet,” so to speak. They are the party who manages the funds and pays the bills. But, when planning for a loved one with a disability, there are many other considerations that need to be met in order to ensure they have the life you want for them. In essence, you want someone who can go beyond the role of “banker.”
To play this role, an individual or firm must have two things:
- In-depth financial and legal experience and capabilities
- Access to a broad network of relevant resources that can help address the wide range of special needs and issues that may arise
This network should be able to provide assistance, guidance, and other support in all the areas that affect the life of someone living with a disability. This may include, but is not limited to:
While a trustee makes decisions about trust distributions, they will often hire a financial planner who will be able to make sure the money continues to grow. This partner helps to provide guidance about spending responsibly while also doing what needs to be done to ensure that the funds are protected for the duration of the beneficiary’s lifetime.
Finding the right work and volunteering opportunities is a big part of living a full and rewarding life. A well-connected trustee can put a beneficiary in touch with someone who can help them find meaningful employment and other opportunities depending on their needs and abilities.
Assistive Technology & Accessible Vehicles
From digital assistants to smart watches, technology has transformed the world around us in countless ways. This is true for people with disabilities who can now take advantage of text-to-speech, voice-activated, and other technologies to become more independent and participate more fully in society. A trustee with a strong network can coordinate a professional evaluation to assess specific technology needs and opportunities, and then provide funds to procure the requisite products.
Transition Planning & Education Law
It’s said that learning is a lifelong journey, which means you need to do a fair amount of ongoing planning and coordination. Whether the beneficiary is graduating from high school and heading out into the world or moving on to another educational institution to learn additional life or other skills, educational transitions are critical stepping stones to the next phase of life. To ensure smooth progression, a trustee might partner with a school or vocational counselor. In instances where there is concern over specific programming or access, special education lawyers and advocates may need to get involved.
There are so many considerations when it comes to housing for someone with special needs. It’s important to have someone on your team who understands the different options, the rules that apply to each, how to advocate effectively, and—in general—what’s happening in each area. Trustees will often partner with advocacy organizations that specialize in helping locate and procure housing for people with disabilities.
When a beneficiary has special needs, many of their healthcare needs are typically covered by Medicare and Medicaid. However, there are many alternative and non-traditional therapies that may be very effective, but fall outside of standard coverage. A trustee working with a variety of providers can coordinate access to art therapy, massage and other holistic modalities, and even equine therapy.
Choosing the right trustee can make all the difference for a beneficiary. And the best trustee is someone who has access to a broad network of professional resources and consultants. After all, a trustee’s role is not just about paying the bills. It’s really about understanding what it takes for each beneficiary to live their best life, and then assembling the team that can deliver on that vision.
If you don’t have access to such a team, we’d love to talk with you. We have the resources, relationships and experience required to coordinate and manage all your loved one’s needs. Most important, our team is truly dedicated to living up to the highest expectations of a trustee.