Developing an Estate Plan for Parents of Children with Disabilities Part 1 of 2

Planning
ahead seems daunting – but if you take it step by step, it is really not so
bad! First you organize, then you decide what you want, and then you sign the
appropriate documents.

Get Organized!

Below are
some specific strategies for gathering and keeping the information you need to
make a thorough plan. If you don't gather this information, it can take weeks
if not months for someone else to make sense of your organizational system (or
lack of a system). Some of this information you need to make a plan and some of
this information you will have only after your plan is adopted. The point is to
get organized enough to make a plan – and then keep the information in one
place for future reference. If you keep these key pieces of information handy,
there is a greater chance your plan will be followed.

Step
One-Creating the Receptacle:
Get a file cabinet and folders, or an accordion-type
folder that you can label. If you are more comfortable with computer folders
and files, set this up on your personal computer. If you choose the digital
route, keep the information secure but make sure to let someone know your
usernames and passwords so that the information is accessible. There should be
one file for your information and one file for your child's.

Step
Two-Important Personal Information:
Create a document with all of your and your
child's personal information (name, nicknames, date and place of birth, phone
numbers, Social Security number, Medicare number, addresses, etc.). You should
also keep a separate folder with copies of birth certificates, military service
records, deeds, insurance policies, stock certificates, spouse's death
certificate, marriage certificates, social security cards, automobile titles,
divorce decrees, usernames, and passwords.

Step
Three-Emergency Contacts:
Create a document for emergency contacts for
you and your child. Include contact information for your spouse, partner,
significant other, children, siblings, and parents. If you have trusted service
people who help with the home or lawn, these names and numbers should be
included here. For your child you should have the name of the person you want to
care for your child in case of an emergency.

Step
Four-Medical Providers and History:
Create a document for you and for your child
with a list of medical providers and medical history. This list should include
the names and numbers for primary care providers and specialists, medications,
allergies, significant family history, insurance companies and policy numbers,
your employer retiree coverage, health insurance, and any Medicaid or Medicare
information. If you have prepaid your or your child's funeral or burial, keep
this information here as well. If your child is still in school, include
information about his or her individual education plan and counselors at the
school who work with your child.

Step
Five-Financial Information:
Create a chart for financial information.
This includes the gross and net amount of each source of income (employment,
social security, supplemental security income, etc.) and current value of each
asset, the death benefit (if any), and all beneficiary designations associated
with the asset. Include on the chart policy numbers and contact information,
the name of any financial advisors you work with, a copy of your most recent
tax statement, and a section on recurring bills, including whether the bill is
paid on-line or by an automated payment. For your child, you should include all
information concerning his or her representative payee accounts and special
needs trust accounts. Copies of statements should be kept in the file cabinet
or scanned in and stored on line.

Step
Six-Legal Information and Documents:
Collect any legal information you
already have, such as the names and numbers for attorneys, health care agents,
attorneys-in-fact, beneficiaries, trustees, and personal representatives. Make
sure to also collect a copy of your will, health care directive, and power of
attorney.

Step
Seven-Accounts and Passwords:
If you use on-line banking or bill-pay, or
have any other accounts (email, Facebook, photo storage, etc.), collect a list
of usernames, passwords, and answers to security questions to these accounts.
Keep these in a secure place and make sure someone you trust knows where to
find them! Make sure you have log-in and password information for internet
accounts and sites your child may be using.

Step
Eight-Letter of Intent:
As a parent of a child with disabilities, you will also
need to create a letter of intent. An upcoming issue of The Voice will discuss
in more detail the importance of a letter of intent.

If these
organizational tasks seem daunting, tackle them one at a time, and enlist a
friend, family member, or financial advisor to help. You want this information
to be protected yet accessible. Consider keeping the folder in a locked safe or
file cabinet, a safety deposit box, or in a password-protected space on your computer.
Then, let the important people in your life know how to access this
information.

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