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Writing a Letter of Intent for Special Needs Estate Planning

Posted by Daniel J. Eccher, Esq. | Mar 05, 2022

The parent or guardian of a child or other dependent with special needs can create a letter of intent to detail care and other arrangements after the parent or guardian dies. An informal, non-legally binding document that complements an estate plan, a letter of intent may be addressed to a personal representative, trustee, successor guardian, or others the writer wants to care for their loved one.

A letter of intent is not always necessary. For instance, under the Special Needs Fairness Act, mentally capable people who meet the federal government's definition of "disabled" may establish their own trusts. However, a letter of intent can be useful for a caretaker of someone with special needs who can't make their own estate plan. 

Such a letter isn't always easy to write. If you care for a loved one with special needs, the thought of no longer being around for them can be unpleasant. But making arrangements for the future can help them live life to the fullest. You may take time to think carefully about what you want to include in your letter. You can also get input from other loved ones and, if possible, from the person with a disability. Here are some ideas for what to add:

  • A general overview – A summary of their life up to this point and your hopes for their future. This can include developmental milestones, such as the ability to do tasks on their own.
  • Their care routine – Include their diet, such as any favorite foods. Add things they like and can do, along with their habits and other behavioral tendencies. If they follow a religious faith and attend services regularly, include that information as well. 
  • Their medical or health-care needs – Their medical history, the nature of their disability, any medications they take, and where and from whom they receive care.
  • Financial support – List any benefits or other assistance they receive and related information (an allowance, bank accounts, trusts, life insurance, etc.).
  • Their living arrangements – Where they live now and where you want them to live later.
  • Final wishes – Your desires for their final arrangements (funeral home, burial, religious service, etc.), and whether you've already made them.

The Special Needs Alliance offers these and more points to consider. Your letter should also include the person's name and date of birth and the names and contact information for others involved in their life and care, from providers to a guardian, trustee, or personal representative. If applicable, add details about their education or employment, along with the location of important items or documents. Sign and date the letter and give copies to people you trust. 

Like other parts of an estate plan, you should go over this letter regularly -- such as on the person's birthday -- and change it when major life events occur. And don't miss important details. To be sure your letter of intent is clear, complete, and doesn't conflict with other parts of your estate plan, you should ask an estate planning attorney to review it.

Among other aspects of elder law, we focus on estate planning, especially creating Special Needs Trusts. For advice on what to include in a letter of intent for Special Needs Planning, call (207) 377-3966 or contact us online today. 

About the Author

Daniel J. Eccher, Esq.

Daniel J. Eccher, Esq. is the Managing Shareholder at Levey, Wagley, Putman & Eccher, P.A., in Winthrop, Maine. Dan's favorite problem to solve is helping clients figure out how to afford long-term care while having something left for their family.

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