Special Needs Planning – Do You Have a Memorandum of Intent?

May 12, 2015 – All parents are naturally concerned about what will happen to their children when they die or are no longer able to care for them. Parents of disabled children are often especially concerned about the quality of life their children will have.

These concerns can be addressed by writing a Memorandum of Intent (Letter of Intent).

A Memorandum of Intent is a crucial element of Special Needs Estate Planning and should always be included within your estate plan. It is a personal letter drafted by you to communicate and document your preferences regarding the care of your special needs loved one.

Although this letter is not legally binding, it is a very useful document to ensure special care for your children. If there’s any question about what the client’s intentions were, the courts will generally take the word of a Letter of Intent. And anyone else who has the child’s best interest at heart will look to the Memorandum of Intent for instruction as well. Most people involved in the child’s life will want to follow the wishes of the parents, so it’s important to have them expressed coherently in one place.

A Memorandum of Intent:

  • Provides a guideline for those who may become responsible for decisions over your child
  • Gives your trustees insight and information regarding services, supports and other personal matters affecting the care of your special needs loved one
  • Differs from the trust because it does not convey legally binding directions like those in a trust. Rather it is a personal letter to those people who will have responsibility when they must make important decisions.

The content of your letter should include the following:

  • Medical information
  • Current doctors, therapists, clinics, hospitals, current medications and therapies
  • Explanations how the medications are given and for what purpose
  • Describe medications / treatments that have not worked in the past
  • the type of medical and therapeutic care the child thrives under
  • Living Arrangements
  • Residential care needs for your child, including past and present accommodations and expected future needs
  • Financial and Other Support
  • Document any Government benefits received by the child
  • Should child have their own spending money
  • Specific Duties of the Guardians
  • Regular medical and dental care instructions (annual checkups)
  • Personal Preferences / Abilities
  • Describe your child’s personality
  • What they like and dislike
  • Their strengths and weaknesses
  • Document the best and most comfortable way to deal with the child’s disability. Especially for children with mental or cognitive disorders, the parents generally know better than anyone else what they are most comfortable with.
  • Programs and Services
  • Identify services and resources that will help your child enjoy the highest level of independence and self-reliance
  • Resources that provide assistance to persons with disabilities in your child’s local area, including public agencies, churches, individuals and private organizations.
  • Tell everything about the family and his or hers goals for the future.
  • include a family history
  • what sort of job or social environment the child might thrive in
  • the family’s religious background
  • Educational information, including past records, current enrollment, specialty teachers, future education goals, special interests and talents, extra-curricular activities, as well as types of educational emphasis (vocational, academic or communication)
  • Make a list of everyone who is important to the child. Include the names addresses and phone numbers of anyone who should be contact if anything should happen to you – including family members, special friends, teachers, care providers, attorneys, and financial advisors.
  • Social and recreational activities your child enjoys, including sports, music, art, movies…
  • Document what a typical day in the life of your child looks like – including their favorite food, television shows and routines
  • Don’t leave out the most difficult decision of your child’s end of life care including funeral arrangements.
  • Use this as a parent’s final expression of love, hope and desires for their child.
  • Be sure to update the content of this letter often to reflect changes in the child’s situation

A Letter of Intent can help alleviate the concerns of parents who are worried about how their child will be cared for in the event of their death. Be sure to review this letter with a Special Needs attorney when completing your estate planning.