Written by: Joanna Adu, Esq.
If you are the primary caregiver of a person with special needs and passed away tomorrow, is there someone who could pick up where you left off in caring for that person? A letter of intent is a document used to communicate the instructions, preferences and general need-to-know information about your dependent with special needs. A well drafted letter of intent should cover everything from doctors, specialists, therapies, federal and state benefits, programs, medications, food preferences, allergies, favorite activities, education, daily routine, finances, religion, family members, living arrangements, etc.
Additionally, the letter of intent should describe your loved one’s level of independence, including their ability to handle money, transportation, employment, self-care, etc. Further, this is a great opportunity to memorialize any particular concerns that you may have about your loved one currently or in the future like particular vulnerabilities that the successor caregiver should be aware of.
Generally, your letter of intent should be written in such a way that the successor caregiver can understand your instructions, expectations and intentions for the person with special needs. In addition to providing a guideline of current needs and circumstances, a letter of intent provides a great opportunity to provide guidance regarding the preferred living and employment arrangements for your loved one in the future. For example, if you are the parent of a child with special needs who is still relatively young, what do you anticipate your child’s preferred living arrangements will be when they become an adult? A group home? Independently with occasional assistance from a caregiver?
The letter of intent should be signed and dated. It should be reviewed and revised on a regular basis, especially after major life changes. Copies of the letter of intent should be kept by yourself as well as any other person who may be responsible for your loved one’s care.
This type of letter of intent is not a legal document and is not required to have any particular format or language. Various templates and guides can easily be found online. However, care should be taken to ensure that the information and instructions contained in the letter of intent do not contradict the provisions of a trust or other estate planning document. In this regard, having an attorney review your letter of intent and estate documents to ensure that there are no issues is extremely helpful.
Estate planning for a special needs family requires an attorney that is experienced and knowledgeable. Fortunately, our skilled and knowledgeable New Jersey attorneys at Lyons & Associates have extensive experience in addressing this particular issue. We invite you to contact us online or give us a call at our office at 908-575-9777 to schedule an appointment.