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The Case for Letters of Intent in Estate Planning for Special Needs Families

If you polled a series of financial advisors and estate attorneys, they would likely all agree that their clients need to have their estate documents completed. The next thing they would likely agree on is that this task is daunting and often remains incomplete by many clients for quite some time. But perhaps you are thinking, “that’s not me; I have my estate documents completed, nothing for me to worry about.” However, if you are one of the many American families with a family member with Special Needs, there is more to it. The Special Needs community has grown immensely in the past ten years. Thankfully, today’s available support is miles ahead of where we were even five years ago. However, one of the central tenants that families with Special Needs members struggle with is planning for the ongoing financial needs of that person and ensuring they are taken care of in the unfortunate event of a passing.

In planning for such an eventuality, many families often spell out within their will specifically where money may or may not be directed (more on that in the article titled “Disinherited”). Still, very few families get intentional with the day-to-day expenses necessary for the life of that family member. Often, the most vital support to a person with special needs comes from the people they depend on daily and their everyday actions and habits. This distinction is where a Letter of Intent becomes relevant and where most of our families that have completed one feel the most confident.

A Letter of Intent is a non-binding, non-legal document that takes the guesswork out of providing support and quality of life decisions concerning people with Special Needs. Think of a Letter of Intent as a quick guide for anyone who reads it to help bring joy and confidence to your family member. A Letter of Intent should include goals and aspirations as well as hobbies, religious preferences, and employment needs.

The key to a good Letter of Intent is that it is flexible and easily adaptable. Life happens to us all, but changes can be complicated in the lives of people with Special Needs. Many people can help you create a Letter of Intent. Still, it is vital that whoever is involved or could possibly be involved in the financial planning process is apprised of the Letter and aware of your intentions.

Do you have a Letter of Intent? Do you think you might need one? Not sure, and want to talk about it more? Reach out to a Bridgeworth Advisor and set up some time to discuss what pieces of your estate might need more planning.

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

Bridgeworth is now a part of Savant Wealth Management as of 11/30/2023. Savant Wealth Management (“Savant”) is an SEC registered investment adviser headquartered in Rockford, Illinois.