No one else knows your child as well as you do, and no one ever could. You are a walking encyclopedia of your child’s history, experiences, habits, and wishes. If your child has special needs, the family’s history adds a helpful chapter to your child’s book, one detailing his unique medical, behavioral and educational requirements.
What would happen if you suddenly became unable to provide your child with the necessary supports he needs? Without you, your child would become dependent on other caregivers who simply do not possess all of your personal knowledge and insight. However, there are steps you can take now to minimize the natural disruption and disorientation that will occur upon your death or if you become unable to care for your child during your lifetime.
A letter of intent helps your loved ones and your child manage a difficult transition when you no longer are the primary caregiver. A letter of intent is an important planning tool for parents of children with special needs (including adult children), and and also guides your child’s future caregivers in making the most appropriate life decisions for your child including providing direction to your child’s trustee in fulfilling his or her fiduciary responsibilities
Although a letter of intent is one of the most important estate planning documents a parent can prepare, it is not a formal legal document that needs to be created by an attorney.
The goal of a letter of intent is to memorialize your knowledge of your child’s needs so that you may guide future caregivers, guardians and trustees in providing the best possible care to your child. Simply put, a thoughtful letter of intent ensures that those who come after you need not waste precious time figuring out the best way to manage and care for your child.
The letter of intent may be addressed to anyone you wish –
This document addresses the following points:
Future Vision for the Child
Biographical and Personal Information
Personality Traits and Preferences
Personal Care Information
Habits and Hygiene
Meals and Dietary Requirements
Important Daily Routines
Family and Support Information
Professional Support Information
Social and Recreation Support Information
Friends and Extended Family Support Information
Other Family and Support Contacts
List of Advisors
Financial Information About Parents
Life Insurance, Potential Gifts, and Inheritances
Financial Information for Child
Structured Settlement Income
Your Financial Values
Overview of Estate Distribution
Location of Important Documents for Parents
Location of Legal Documents Specific to Child
Final Arrangements for Child
Government Benefit Information
Current Government Benefits
Potential Government Benefits
Government Benefit Contact Information
Once you prepare, sign and date the letter of intent, you should review the document annually and update it as necessary. It is important that you let your child’s potential future caregiver know the letter of intent exists and where it can be accessed; even better, you can review the document with the caregiver on an annual basis. The letter of intent should be placed with all of your other relevant legal and personal documents concerning your child.
The letter of intent can be a difficult and extremely emotional document to write, as it often is the first time parents actually envision their child with special needs navigating this world without them. However, once it is completed, the first important step has been taken toward creating a detailed road map for future caregivers and trustees. As a parent of a child with special needs, you also may be relieved to know that you are ensuring the highest quality of life for your child by laying the foundation for as seamless a transition as possible after you are gone