Every parent worries about whether their children will be well cared for if tragedy strikes. But the worries are compounded for parents of children with special needs who lack the capacity to communicate their needs to caregivers.
As a parent of a special needs child, you know their needs and desires, likes and dislikes and information relating to the care and services they are receiving. But what happens if you are no longer living? How can you ensure that your disabled child will be well cared for by the person who assumes the role of their guardian when you’re gone?
Although a Special Needs Trust can provide for your disabled child’s supplemental financial needs, it will likely not contain information that is vital to ensuring continuity in their care. That’s why all parents of children with special needs should also prepare a Letter of Intent.
What is a Letter of Intent?
A letter of intent is not a legally-binding document. Rather it is letter that provides valuable information about your disabled child’s life to help guardians, trustees and courts understand your hopes and desires for him or her.
What Should Letter of Intent Include?
A letter of intent should include information such as:
- Names, addresses and phone numbers of people who should be contacted in the event of your incapacity or death.
- Your child’s family history, as well as names and contact information for family members who have a good relationship with your child.
- The names, addresses and phone numbers of close friends who have a good relationship with your child.
- Facts relating to your child’s medical condition and names, addresses and phone numbers of those actively involved in your child’s medical care.
- Your child’s interests, personality traits, likes and dislikes, including the types of social activities your child enjoys.
- Your child’s day to day routines such as mealtimes, bedtimes, and extracurricular activities.
- Information about your child’s education and your hopes and aspirations for future education.
- Information about any paid or volunteer positions that your child had held and/or what types of jobs he or she might enjoy.
- The location of medical records or other important documents
- Your child’s religious beliefs, including where he or she attends religious services, the names of ministers who are familiar with your child and your hopes for his or her religious upbringing.
- The environment in which you would want your child to live as an adult, such with relatives or in a group home.
- Any other information you believe is relevant to your child’s care.
Does My Letter of Intent Have to Be In Any Specific Format?
The Letter of Intent does not have to be in any specific format. It can be handwritten or typed, although typing it can make it easier to keep it regularly updated as your child’s needs change.
How Often Should I Update my Letter of Intent?
A letter of intent should be updated on a regular basis throughout your life to ensure that it is current. Make it a habit of revisiting it once a year, perhaps on your child’s birthday, or New Year, and noting any changes. A current copy should be kept with your estate planning documents so that it can be found when needed.
As a constant in your child’s life, you know him or her better than anyone. Providing a Letter of Intent to the person who will assume the responsibility for your child’s care will ensure that he or she is up to speed a lot more quickly and better able to provide for your child’s needs.