As the families of individuals with special needs undertake long-term financial and estate
planning, they face critical challenges and require professional assistance.
Attorneys, trust officers and other estate planners, however, know that financial planning is
only one part of what needs to be determined. Questions such as, “Who will take care of my family
member with special needs after I am gone?” and “Who will make sure that my family member with
special needs continues to have the highest quality of life possible?” will be raised and need to be
Parents, siblings and relatives who have a family member with a mental, developmental or
physical disability frequently have the ongoing responsibility for their care and support far beyond
that ordinarily required. This greatly impacts the planning process.
Primary concerns are the provisions of a safe, secure environment and the level of support
and oversight needed to assure that those with special needs have a high quality of life long after
family members are able to provide it.
The increase of people with disabilities who live on their own or in supported-living situations
has contributed to the concern of many families about the assurance of appropriate long-term care.
Trust officers and conservators/guardians, who are usually the ones with the fiduciary
responsibility for a person with special needs after the parents have died, often freely admit to their
understandable lack of expertise in defining and providing the complex services required by an
individual with lifelong specials needs and in management of public benefits. Siblings may be
equally bewildered by those demands and they frequently live far away.
Care management services provide oversight and expertise, including the individual
advocacy and oversight essential for assuring the highest quality of life for persons with special
needs. The concept of care management is based on the need for an array of services that
evaluates, plans, coordinates, monitors and advocates for whatever services differ from typical care
management services, often provided by the elderly, because they are provided by those with the
experience and training in addressing the completed needs of individuals with developmental,
physical or intellectual disabilities or mental illness.
There is a growing need for this type of service. The impact on professionals that provide
services – financial, legal and advisory – to families that fall into these categories is undeniable.
– Since 2010, the number of people aged 65 and older grew by 13,878,044. That is up
34% since 2010. No other age group saw such a significant increase.
– The pool of family caregivers is dwindling. According to AARP, there are 7 potential
caregivers for each person needing care. It is projected that by 2030, the ratio will be 4-1.
Families often do not involve siblings in planning even though it is a sibling who most
commonly takes over the responsibility for a family member with special needs. An elder law
attorney is able to show you ways in which a family member can provide caregiving to a person with
disabilities to improve their quality of life.