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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, a 44-year-old Business Development Manager for a large construction firm, and Leeann, a 42-year-old Stay-at-Home Mom, are parents to three children. Their middle child, Michael, has special needs, including developmental delays and Cerebral Palsy. Their other two children are typically developing, and they anticipate both will attend college after high school. Larry and Leeann have been diligent savers and have managed to remain free of consumer debt. Leeann has been the primary caregiver for Michael. However, they now realize the need to make long-term plans for his future, particularly after he completes high school.


The family seeks guidance in developing a comprehensive strategy that addresses the support needed for their special needs child while simultaneously planning for their own future goals, including retirement, their daughters’ college education, and family travel while the children are young. The family is actively involved in the Special Olympics and their daughters’ activities.

The Challenge: 

In addition to the usual financial planning concerns, raising a child with special needs presents unique challenges. Parents often face the difficult task of balancing the financial support required for their child with special needs while also planning for their retirement, the education of their other children, and other long-term goals. Larry and Leeann acknowledge the need for professional assistance in creating a plan to address their concerns.

They understand that navigating the complex landscape of future benefits and qualifying rules can be confusing. Up until now, they have been handling their financial matters independently. One of Michael’s caseworkers recommends seeking the guidance of an advisor specializing in Special Needs Financial Planning. Larry and Leeann are particularly interested in the following areas:

  • Planning for Michael’s future care
  • Determining the amount they should save to provide for his care
  • Understanding Michael’s benefits once he turns 18
  • Saving for their daughters’ college education
  • Estate planning considerations to include the role of a Special Needs Trust for Michael
  • Optimizing their budget
  • Assessing the sufficiency of their life insurance coverage
  • Optimizing their investments across Larry’s 401(k), their IRAs, and their daughters’ college savings plans
  • Assessing their progress towards retirement in 20 years
  • Identifying any gaps in their current financial planning

    The Approach: 

    We began by thoroughly understanding Larry and Leeann’s goals, needs, and concerns. We then helped them evaluate their spending habits and identify areas where they could be more efficient in saving for the future. Next, we collaborated on developing a comprehensive plan that addressed their long-term goals and provided a roadmap for achieving them. Together, we helped them articulate their vision for Michael’s future life and identify his circle of support. We worked on drafting a letter of intent and identifying potential local, state, and federal resources that might be available to support Michael as an adult.

    To better assess the major expenses they may face in supporting Michael, we conducted a Lifetime Financial Needs Assessment. We reviewed their Social Security benefits, investments, insurance coverage, and tax situation. Through our network of Special Needs Planners, we referred them to an attorney who assisted in drafting their Estate Plan and establishing a Special Needs Trust for Michael. We also explored efficient methods to fund their goals using the Special Needs Trust, a 529 ABLE account, and life insurance.

    In addition, we utilized traditional financial planning methods to address their retirement, college savings, and travel goals. Ultimately, we built a comprehensive plan that not only encompassed their own retirement and college planning but also provided a solid foundation for developing 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.