Posted by Jeremy Swanson
On August 26, 2016

Planning for the Needs of a Special Needs Loved One

Today’s post, about how to care for a family member with special needs, highlights some very real issues and some important solutions. Estate planning is always important, but never more so when you have a child or relative with special needs. Barry Rosenfeld is a Chartered Financial Consultant and a Chartered Lifetime Assistance Planner who has years of experience helping families with many of these issues in Bakersfield, and all across the State of California. We are republishing his newspaper article here with his permission, and with thanks. His contact information is at the bottom of this article if you need his assistance.

Planning for the Needs of a Special Needs Loved One

By Barry Rosenfeld

The Bakersfield Californian printed a wonderful article on August 21 entitled, “What happens to developmentally disabled as caregivers age, die?” In the article, a 67 year old mother described her grave concern about what will happen to her 22 year old with cerebral palsy and intellectual disability if she were to predecease her daughter.

Because of advancements in medical science, those with Special Needs are outliving their parents far more than they were 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Life expectancy is a little past 78, and for most with Special Needs, that number is the same for them.

Estate & Financial planning is problematic at best, but for the parents of a Special Needs child it is even more challenging. When addressing the needs of those children, one should always hope for the best but plan for the worst.

The recent article addressed Medicaid (MediCal in California) issues and that 860,000 parents in the United States over the age of 60 are caring for a child with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The concern is who will make certain that those adult children’s quality of life will continue in the same manner after the parents die?

Parents continue to have the same love and the same concern for their Special Needs Loved One: 1) Where will my child live if I should die? 2) Where will the money come from to ensure that all of my child’s needs are met? 3) Should we address conservatorship and/or guardianship issues? 4) If my child is receiving government benefits (SSI, SSA, MediCal, etc.) who will make certain that qualification for those benefits are met?

It is very important that the parents (or grandparents or siblings) of those with Special Needs begin the planning process immediately because the recent article in the Californian indicated while services are available when the parents die, there are long waiting lists for those services. In fact, in the article, April Lopez the Chairwoman of California’s State Council on Developmental Disabilities stated that while people in California qualify for services they need, under the state-run health system some services are not available when people need them. And, the state’s reimbursement rate is so low that it discourages doctors and health centers from providing services.

Working with great organizations like Kern Regional Center can fill much of what is needed. But in the real world parents are the ones that need to step up and make certain all contingencies are addressed by creating a funded Special Needs plan that will insure that the quality of life issues are addressed in a timely and efficient manner when the parents die before the child.

And speaking of Kern Regional Center and the wonderful folks working to help those with developmental disabilities in our community, the passage of the Lanterman Act (in 1977) helped establish the Regional Center system in California. This act guarantees that there will be services and support for those with disabilities. The passage also insures that people with disabilities have the same rights that other citizens enjoy. Today, 21 Regional Centers throughout the state of California serve 275,000 clients.

Barry Rosenfeld is a Chartered Financial Consultant and a Chartered Lifetime Assistance Planner. He is also a member of the Bakersfield Californian’s Sounding Board. He can be reached at or (661) 703 9466.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.

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