by Michael Lodge
I found this article that deals with the Baby Boomer and the issue of caring for special needs children. I would like to share it with you. We have so many clients that have special needs beautiful children that we need to have a good discussion from time to time. This article is written by Bryce Sanders who is President of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. This article is really written to accountants so we know how to talk with our clients and to know where to send them for help. But this article benefits all of us.
Many families have a special-needs child in their household. As baby boomer parents consider their own mortality, they are very concerned: “Who will provide for my child’s care when we are gone?”
What’s the Real Issue?
It’s simple. Parents can look after their special-needs child today, but what happens when they are not here? It’s an issue with at least two elements: providing the care and funding it for their child’s lifetime.
The report Statistics of Children with Special Needs noted that according to a 2005 US Census study, 54.4 million Americans, or about one in five of us, have a disability. Among children ages 3 to 17, almost 14 percent have a developmental disability.
Boomer parents realize this is a huge responsibility. They don’t want to make mistakes. The parents know they have the situation under control now, but their child will likely outlive them. What happens then? Special services are provided by the state, but will their child fall between the cracks?
The Wrong Decision
These parents care, but sometimes they get themselves into a false sense of security by making incorrect assumptions.
“The government will take care of our child, won’t they?” One of the great benefits of our public education system is the immense effort it makes to educate every child, regardless of disability. It’s built into our property taxes. The parents may assume the government has lots of other cradle-to-grave programs and you move from one to the other. The government can help, but there are thresholds involved.
Next, they consider the human solution. Because blood is thicker than water, their other children will step in to help. But they might have moved away and started their own families and careers. Then there’s the neighbor who always liked the child. Maybe they will step in. That’s unrealistic. Even if they might be agreeable to help, what if they moved away beforehand?
The religious solution comes next. Perhaps the church or temple will take on the responsibility. Yes, they might help in a supporting role, but it’s very unlikely they will take on the primary responsibility.
What’s the Risk of Not Addressing This Problem?
This is their biggest concern. It only looms larger as the boomer parents get older. If one gets seriously ill, the concern intensifies. They might put other important issues on the back burner until this one is addressed. Worse, they might meet someone who sells them an investment product that might not do the entire job.
Is There a Solution?
As their accountant, you don’t need to find the solution personally, but you need to know where to send them for advice. This can be an “only I have this problem” situation, where they don’t solicit input from professionals like you. Perhaps you raise the subject the next time you meet.
They may have already found articles in respected publications addressing the issue. Here are two examples:
- How to Financially Prepare for Raising a Child with Special Needs (US News & World Report, Sept. 5, 2012)
- Assuring the Care of a Family Member With Special Needs (New York Times, Oct. 5, 2012)
These types of articles will show it is an issue that’s far too complicated for the parents to address themselves. There are issues of legal guardianship, because at age 18, your child is considered an adult. There’s the concept of a Special Needs Trust to provide funds for the care of their child.
There are attorneys and financial advisors who specialize in this field. The American Bar Association has a report on its website, Special Needs Trusts: The Cornerstone of Planning for Beneficiaries With Disabilities. It’s 102 pages! You will need to refer them to a few in each category they can interview before determining where they will look for further advice.
It’s a problem you probably can’t solve on your own, but you can help get the ball rolling. This will start to take a weight off their minds.