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The Basics of Special Needs Planning

M Caton 2014
Maria Caton, CFP®, ChSNC®, AAMS®
Vice President, Manager of Financial Planning Services
(585) 419-0670 x50666

When you have a child, sibling, spouse or other loved one living with a disability or special need, planning for the future can feel overwhelming. There are many things to consider and often times, people don’t know where to start. Even with the best intentions, making the wrong decision can have a profound effect, such as losing important benefits the individual is entitled to and needs. Financial Planning, while important for everyone to engage in, takes on an even more critical role in the life of families living with an individual with a disability or special need. 

The goals of special needs planning are to: 

  • Balance your present and future needs with the present and future needs of your loved one. 
  • Create and implement plans that meet your loved one’s personal care needs, as well as his or her financial and legal needs. 
  • Communicate those plans to all persons involved with the care of your loved one. 
  • Review these plans on occasion and revise them as circumstances change.
  • Assure family members that your loved one’s needs have been adequately addressed. 

One of the first steps in getting organized is to create a personal care plan that involves thinking and making decisions about the kind of personal care your loved one needs. Some key considerations might be: who will provide the care your loved one needs or where will your loved one live? It also needs to include medical, daily living, and safety considerations.

To ensure the plan is carried out, it is important to execute specific legal documents. These may include: medical directives, durable powers of attorney, a will, and naming a guardian who will continue to care for your loved one after you are gone. You may also want to have a letter of intent or instruction, in which you can express specific, personal wishes regarding the ongoing care of your loved one. Be aware, however, that such a letter is not legally binding, so be sure to include any legally binding wishes in your will. This can be accomplished by an experienced Special Needs Planning attorney. 

Finally, the last step in the process entails creating and implementing a financial plan tailored to help pay for your loved one’s current and future needs. For most people, planning ahead financially includes saving for retirement, saving for a child’s education, and providing for a spouse or children in the event of a parent’s untimely death. But when you have a loved one with special needs, you also have a number of additional factors to consider. Preservation of benefits is one of the most important considerations. Fortunately, federal and state laws permit certain planning techniques that maximize the use of all available resources, both private and governmental, to provide fully for the needs of the disabled. One of the most important planning techniques involves the use of a special needs trust, which is sometimes called a Supplemental Needs Trust. 

If you have a loved one who is disabled or has special needs and you are concerned about their future personal needs and security, our team of Special Needs Planning specialists would welcome the opportunity to meet and address any specific questions or concerns you may have.

How CNB Can Help

If you would like to discuss in more detail, I am available to answer any questions you may have. Please call me today at (585) 419-0670, ext. 50666 or

This material is provided for general information purposes only. Past performance is not indicative of future investment results. Any investment involves potential risk, including potential loss of capital. Before making any investment decision, please consult your legal, tax and financial advisors. Non-deposit investment products are not bank deposits and are not insured or guaranteed by Canandaigua National Bank & Trust or its affiliates, or any federal or state government or agency and are subject to investment risks, including possible loss of principal amount invested.