My first priority as an attorney is to truly understand my clients’ needs, hopes and resources – currently and down the road. This is particularly critical (and often more complex) when I am designing the provisions of a special needs trust. The challenges are:
- How do individuals with disabilities and their loved ones communicate their quality-of-life goals so they feel secure that their legal documents are in alignment?
- How do trustees, family members, caregivers and other professionals know what is expected of them when a trust is in force?
- How can the parent and/or caregiver of a dependent child with special needs gain peace-of-mind in the event of their own serious illness or unexpected death?
To address these questions, I collaborate with my clients to help them write a highly descriptive Memorandum (or Letter) of Intent as a companion document to a special needs trust. Though the directives in the Memorandum of Intent are not legally binding, they provide invaluable insight and a “roadmap of care” for anyone responsible for decisions about the beneficiary of the trust. The document will include medical, behavioral, social, educational, aspirational and day-to-day practical information about the beneficiary.
A comprehensive Memorandum of Intent requires preparation, thoughtfulness and, for best long-term adherence to the intentions, open conversations between all parties involved. The degree of detail required will vary based on the level of independence of the special needs individual, as well as their ability to advocate on their own behalf.
Your Memorandum should be written in a conversational voice, be signed and dated, and provide the following:
- Identification of the beneficiary and identification of the associated trust.
- Personal statement of care with hopes and aspirations for the loved one with the disability.
- Family history/background.
- Medical history including diagnosis and expected progression of disability, if relevant.
- Names and contact information for the trustees, caregivers, case managers, supporting agencies and anyone that can be called on for advice.
- All programs, services and treatments including educational, medical, extracurricular, therapeutic and vocational. Specify any type of insurance coverage that should be maintained with all policy numbers, agents and contact information.
- Financial resources and managers such as government benefits, trustees, care coordinators and employers.
- Style and location of living arrangements anticipated, being as descriptive of the optimal situation as possible in terms of necessary accommodations, routines and level of support needed.
- Details about personal preferences and frequencies, grooming habits, prized possessions, friends and relatives, religious practices, entertainment choices, leisure activities, strong dislikes.
- Level of independence and abilities with regard to transportation, finances, verbal or other communication, reading/writing. Other important aspects of the disability.
From personal experience, I know that writing a Memorandum of Intent can be an emotional process but the outcome is invaluable to all parties involved. If you are concerned about the quality of life and continuity of care of a special needs dependent, my team and I can help you navigate the process with expertise and the utmost compassion.