You know your child better than anyone else, and nobody ever will. As a parent, you are an encyclopedia of your child's experiences, habits, and wishes. If your child has special needs then the family history adds an important chapter to your child's life; this includes a description of his or her unique medical, academic, and behavioral needs.
In the event that you suddenly found yourself unable to provide the necessary support for your child, what would you do? Without you, your child would have to depend on other caregivers who simply do not possess the same level of insight and knowledge as you do. If you become unable to care for your child during your lifetime or if you die, there are steps you can take to minimize the disruption and disorientation that may occur.
A Letter of intent helps your loved ones and your child navigate a difficult transition when you are no longer the primary caregiver. This document is an important planning tool for parents of special needs children (including adult children), and assists your child's future caretakers in making appropriate choices regarding your child's care, as well as providing guidance to your child's trustee in carrying out their responsibilities.
While a letter of intent is one of the most important estate planning documents a parent can create, it is not a formal legal document that needs be created by an attorney.
Your letter of intent should ideally memorialize the needs of your child so that future guardians, caregivers, and trustees will be able to provide the best possible care. By writing a thoughtful letter of intent, you ensure that those who come after you need not waste precious time figuring out how to manage and care for your child.
You may address the letter of intent to anyone you wish –
A Letter of Intent addresses the following points:
- Emotional Information
- Future Vision for the Child
- Biographical and Personal Information
- Medical Information
- Personality Traits and Preferences
- Personal Care Information
- Habits and Hygiene
- Meals and Dietary Requirements
- Important Daily Routines
- Family and Support Information
- Family Information
- Professional Support Information
- Social and Recreation Support Information
- Friends and Extended Family Support Information
- Other Family and Support Contacts
- Financial Information
- List of Advisors
- Financial Information About Parents
- Life Insurance, Potential Gifts, and Inheritances
- Financial Information for Child
- Structured Settlement Income
- Your Financial Values
- Legal Information
- Overview of Estate Distribution
- Location of Important Documents for Parents
- Location of Legal Documents Specific to Child
- Final Arrangements for Child
- Government Benefit Information
- Current Government Benefits
- Potential Government Benefits
- Government Benefit Contact Information
As you can see, the Letter of Intent is pretty extensive and covers all aspects of your child's life.
Following the preparation, signing, and archiving of the letter of intent, you should review and update the document annually. Please let your child's potential future caregiver know that this letter of intent exists and the place where he or she can access it; even better, review the document with the caregiver each year. Ensure that your letter of intent is filed with all of your other personal and legal documents concerning your child.
It can be a very emotional and difficult document to write, as this is often the first time parents will see their special needs child navigate the world without their presence. It is important to realize, though, that this is only the beginning of creating a detailed path for future caregivers and trustees. It might also be reassuring to you as a parent of a child with special needs that you are laying the foundation for as seamless a transition as possible after you are gone.
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