July 6, 2021

5 pillars of special needs planning

Jitendra P.S. Solanki
Founder - JS Financial Advisors & Special Needs Estate Planners Pvt. Ltd

Special Needs Planning is unique as it concerns life issues and not just financial projections. Right from childbirth to adolescence to parents’ retirement years, these issues actually express the life struggles of a special needs family.

For any investment adviser considering advisory to special needs children’s families, it is important that the life concerns are well understood. But it’s easier said than done. Emotions play a huge role in the life of a special needs family. For an adviser, understanding these emotions is crucial. Maybe based on one’s expertise he/she will have to commit more time than in traditional planning. While planning for families with special needs dependent, numbers alone just don’t work. There are other areas of their lives that have to be addressed fully to even just drive families towards financial planning for their future.

There are 5 factors or I would say 5 pillars which form the core of life planning for such families. To guide these families an understanding of these 5 factors is important.

Emotional Aspects

Emotions are an integral part of any family who has special needs dependent to care. These come naturally through struggles the family had to pass through.  It starts with the news of child disability and fear of the future. Till families figure out what needs to be done, there will be emotions of denial, depression, anger, anxiety, and sometimes even rejection. The preparedness or keenness towards financial planning will depend on what life stages they are in. Young parents who are in the initial years may not be in a mood to listen around finance as their emotions are ruling their world now. It’s when families reach a life stage when the special need dependent is grown up, that they will think about planning for the future well aware of the concerns now. Still, the emotions would overpower any planning. What a family needs are someone to guide them to calm down and then plan. This may need addressing any issue they are unaware of which may even include issues related to child disability. Advisers will have to seek professionals help from other areas to support them to address their life emotions.

Support Around Families

The support for families is equally important for them as surroundings have a much greater impact. Within their lifetime, the support of family members/friends/relatives defines the challenges family have to face while upbringing the child. If family members have a caring attitude, then it becomes easier to come out of a difficult situation. With the change of the joint family system, finding good support has become a challenge now. Families have to look beyond family members like community groups, to create the right support system for their child. As an adviser, it’s important to understand this aspect of their life. How families can carry forward their values and how they can begin communication with other family members who will be involved in child care will be the aspects families seeking answers to. It may look to be not an area of concern for investment advisers. But they still need to ensure families address this aspect since the concern of not having good support for their child generally delays financial planning.

Financial Planning

Financial planning for families is a necessity rather than important. How will they provide for the financial care of their child and other family members have to be addressed at the right life stage. The families will look for a financial advisor who can show them the direction for the financial wellbeing of their child. But, there will be a lot of other issues involving money matters which are different from traditional planning. The finances have to be discussed with future guardians/caregivers of children. If there is a sibling, then finances become a critical element and can often become easy means of dispute. Parents will have to discuss with siblings why they will leave more for the special needs child else dissatisfaction may arise. Identification of the right person who will manage child financial affairs post parents lifetime is critical. All these issues need attention and as an adviser, one needs to guide families on addressing money matters within and post their lifetime

Legal Issues

Families with special needs dependents have more legal issues to plan for. Where will the child live? Who will manage affairs of the child post parents’ lifetime? Should they leave assets to the child, family member or should they form a trust? How to commensurate to future caregivers/trustees and identifying the right guardian for their child. Then who manages child affairs if they are incapacitated accidently or old age. All these issues have to be addressed but lack of awareness and good professionals leave families unplanned for these kinds of contingencies. Investment adviser while approaching the families for advisory will have to ensure that they can find a solution to these aspects of their life.

The Government Polices

Government policies play an important factor in the life of special needs. These policies provide them rights and benefits which results in the right standard of living for the family. The government has framed policies mandating disable friendly government and residential buildings, special services in banks, facilities at airports and railways, and many others.  Apart from this, there may be government policies for a special savings account, monthly pension, concession, and loans to families with special needs dependent. All such policies can minimize efforts for parents to plan for their child’s future. Financial advisers have to make themselves aware of these policies. Also, how this government policies change and what benefit they bring keeping these updates is crucial to deliver proper guidance.

What a special needs dependent family is looking for is guidance for all concerns revolving around their life. Having different professionals and coordinating with them is a difficult task when families are already short on time. An adviser who wishes to guide families will have to create a team of professionals from different areas in order to address the above 5 factors.


One response to “5 pillars of special needs planning”

  1. Sunil B Kapadia says:

    Thanks for sharing it here, I really appreciate it. As it brings to the table how incluisve our planner’s & practitioner’s role should be while dealing with such client families. Much appreciated.

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