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With an estimated 21 million families in the U.S. having at least one family member with a disability, your family is not alone. Also common with such families is the need for special needs planning. Have you planned for the future of your loved one with special needs? Perhaps your loved one’s needs are currently being taken care of in terms of finances, health and quality of life—but what about when you pass on? Although such topics force us to consider our own mortality, it is in the best interest of your loved one to think about things such as a letter of intent and special needs trust.

A letter of intent is a document for a future caregiver that includes important information about a family member with a disability, including medical instructions, lifestyle preferences and wishes for his future. A special needs trust is a means of setting aside funds that can enrich the life of a person with disabilities without making him ineligible for government benefits. It can be used to pay for services not covered by government benefits, such as special therapies, vacations or art classes. Oftentimes, family caregivers don many hats for a loved one with special needs: chauffeur, nurse, guardian, accountant and personal attendant. Oftentimes, too, they don’t realize what it would cost to provide the same level of service if they were no longer able to help their loved one. All of these needs must be considered when planning for your loved one’s future. It is important to begin thinking about these issues as early as possible and to put a plan in place. Speak with an experienced attorney who can assist you.