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Creating a Special Needs Life Plan Case Study

Special needs case study

Larry: Business Development Manager for a large construction firm, 44 years old

Leeann: Stay at home Mom, 42 years old.

Larry is a successful business development manager with a large southeastern-based construction company. They have three children. The middle child, Michael has some special needs (Developmental delays and Cerebral Palsy).  The other two children are typical, and it is anticipated both will attend college after high school.  Larry and Leeann have been good savers and remained free of consumer debt.  Leeann has been the primary caregiver to Michael.  However, they realize they have not made long term plans for him and are worried about his future when he is out of High School.  


They are seeking advice on developing a long-term strategy to address the support of their special needs child while continuing to plan for their future goals, retirement, college for their daughters, and travel with the family while they are young.  The family is very much involved in the Special Olympics and their daughters activities.

The Challenge:
On top of normal financial planning concerns, raising a child with Special Needs has its’ own unique challenges. Parents are often forced to choose between competing goals of providing for their child with Special Needs while continuing to plan for their retirement, other sibling’s education, and other long-term goals. Larry and Leeann recognize that they need help in building a plan to address their concerns. 

They understand the myriad of future potential benefits and the qualifying rules can be confusing. Up until this point they have been doing things on their own. One of Michel’s caseworkers recommends they seek the advice of an Advisor who has expertise in Special Needs Financial Planning. Larry and Leeann wanted to know about:

  • Planning for the future care of Michael
  • How much should they save to provide for his care?
  • Understanding Michael’s benefits when he turns 18.
  • Saving and paying for college for his two sisters
  • What they needed to do for estate planning
  • Optimizing their budget
  • Adequacy of their life insurance
  • How to optimize their investments between Larry’s 401(k), their IRAs, and their daughters’ college savings plans
  • Are they on track for retirement in 20 years?
  • What are they missing in their planning so far? 

The Approach:
First, we worked with them to understand their most important goals, need,s and concerns. Next, we help them identify their spending habits and identify areas where they can be more efficient in saving for the future. Then when drafted a plan to address their long-term goals and provided goals. We helped them write their vision for Michael’s future life and identify his circle of support. We worked together and helped draft a letter of intent and identify the anticipated local, State and Federal resources that might be available to Michael when he becomes an adult. 

We completed a Lifetime Financial Needs Assessment to clarify the major expenses they may face in supporting Michael. We reviewed their Social Security Benefits, Investments, Insurance, and taxes. We referred them to an Attorney through our network of Special Needs Planners who help them draft their Estate Plan and establish a Special Need Trust for Michael. We then help them find the most efficient methods to fund the goals using the Special Need Trust, a 529 ABLE account and Life Insurance. 

We used traditional Financial Planning methods to help them address their retirement, college saving, and travel goals. Finally, we built a Broad-based plan that addressed not only their own retirement and college planning goals but also provided a foundation to build a life support plan for Michael.

The Results:
Larry and Leeann understand that the plan we presented is a living document that periodically needs to be refreshed or as their situation changes. They feel they are in a better position to understand their option regarding Michael’s future care and know that they have a plan in place to adjust as the need arises.