If your family includes a child with special needs, the legal documents in your estate plan provide the framework for your child’s future financial security and personal well-being. But your estate plan doesn’t include important details about their day-to-day care and background that are essential to the child’s welfare, especially if a time comes when you cannot care for the child. You can communicate that essential information by preparing a Letter of Intent to guide everyone involved in your child’s care in the future.
What Is a Letter of Intent?
You know your child’s needs and preferences better than anyone else. When you create a Letter of Intent — also called a Letter of Guidance or Letter of Instruction — you share your unique knowledge with everyone who cares for your child in the future. An LOI includes the child’s personal history and current circumstances, as well as all the details necessary for your child’s well-being in the future.
A Letter of Intent is a valuable tool in planning for your child with special needs. But it is not a substitute for theestate planning documents that protect your child. While it is not legally-binding (and does not have special statutory or other legal requirements), an LOI provides guidance for a trustee, guardian, caregiver, teacher, and anyone else with a role in caring for your child. By articulating your child’s needs and your wishes for your child’s future in writing, you ensure that those who care for your child can minimize the disruption and emotional strain for your child during transitional periods.
What Should Your Letter Include?
Every LOI is unique, because every child with special needs has different circumstances. But every Letter of Intent includes certain basic components that communicate essential information about the child. An LOI may include:
An expression of your hopes and wishes for the child’s future
A history of the family, including the child’s life to date
A detailed explanation of the child’s current typical daily routine, including their specific needs and preferences
Details relating to social and personal relationships important to your child, including family members, teachers, caregivers, and special friends
Current contact information for all relatives and friends of the child
Information about local resources that provide assistance for the child
Educational details about your child, including past records, educational goals, the child’s interests and extracurricular activities, and areas of educational emphasis
Social, religious, and recreational affiliations and activities of the child
Your child’s needs for housing, residential care, and living arrangements, including information about past and present accommodations, as well as future expected needs
Guidance concerning work and day programs, including activities the child enjoys and available workshops and activity centers in your community
Detailed medical information, past and present, including contact information for medical professionals who care for the child
A description of any public benefits the child receives or may be eligible for in the future, as well as any private financial resources of the child
This list is not all inclusive. Other information about your child’s past and present circumstances and future needs should be included when it is relevant to ensuring their welfare.
How to Create a Letter of Intent
Writing an LOI is a very personal and emotional experience. You should approach it with an open heart and open mind, including everything about your child’s life and care that is essential to their daily and long-term well-being.
You may wish to include other family members in the process, so that the letter integrates the perceptions of others who care for the child. In many cases, the child themselves should be an important part of the process.
Samples and templates for an LOI are readily available on the internet. However, your LOI should integrate your child’s own circumstances. You should feel free to deviate from sample or suggested content to provide a comprehensive explanation about your child’s current life, as well as your hopes for their future.
When you finish the Letter of Intent, you should date and sign it. Store it somewhere safe, such as with your estate planning documents in asafe deposit box or home safe. Give copies to everyone involved in your child’s care presently, as well as anyone who may become involved in the future, such as a trustee or guardian named in your estate plan.
Your LOI should be updated on a regular basis to reflect necessary changes. Planning to review it once a year is a good approach, although sometimes you may need to revise it more frequently. When you revise it, always make certain that you replace a previous original and provide copies of the updated LOI to others as necessary.
Planning for a Child With Special Needs
A letter of intent is a valuable part of your plan for your child’s future. It also is essential to have the right legal documents in place as part ofyour estate plan, to protect the child’s financial security and personal well-being.
In many situations, aspecial needs trust is an important part of an estate plan for a child with special needs. This unique type of trust can protect your child’s ability to receive government benefits now and in the future. A trust may be necessary to provide that protection when your child is eligible for benefits from a needs-based government program.
Our estate planning lawyers at BRMM provide a wealth of information about planning for a child with special needs, including details about special needs trusts, througharticles in our blog.
Talk with our Experienced Troy, Michigan Estate Planning Attorneys
At the law firm ofBarron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C., we provide a full range of services relating toestate planning for a child with special needs, includingspecial needs trusts. We’ve been serving clients in Oakland County and beyond for more than 40 years. Our clients count on our commitment, experience, and credentials when they turn to us for their legal needs.
Call us today at 248-641-7070 or use ouronline form to talk with our experienced estate planning attorneys.