Special Needs Planning

Stuart Hawkins' Story

Upcoming Workshops and Events

Our Educational Workshop

New ABLE Act

Biggest Mistakes Parents Make When Planning for a Child With Special Needs

Special Needs Planning Quiz


Stuart Hawkins' Story

Special Needs Planning (SNP) has been a focus for me since 2005. Life pointed me in this direction when my first child was diagnosed with hydrocephalus as a newborn.  Three years later, my wife, Janet, and I learned our daughter had a brain tumor. 

My daughter is now 29 years old, and my journey as her father exposed me firsthand to many of the experiences families with a child with special challenges encounter. Janet and I have navigated many medical, social, educational, legal, vocational, and relational issues experienced by the families I advise.

This journey enables me to offer in-depth knowledge, compassion, and experience to my SNP clients, while recognizing that each family’s circumstances are unique.  I have had the privilege of presenting my workshop to 70 organizations throughout the state of CT. My passion and goal is to assist families with a loved one with special needs to navigate the atypical and complicated issues so often met by similar families.  My clients rely on my guidance regarding the legal and financial issues that will impact their loved one’s future.

In my spare time, I am the Board Chair of PLAN, The Planned Lifetime Assistance Network of CT, a non-profit organization that acts as a trustee for special needs trusts.  I also volunteer with Special Olympics as a ski coach.  Additionally, Janet and I actively raise funds for pediatric brain tumor research through A Kids Brain Tumor Cure Foundation (akidsbraintumorcure.org/).       (back to top)


Upcoming Workshops and Events....

Workshop Title:   Planning for the Future of your Loved One
                                          with Special Needs

Thursday, April 18                     12 - 3    Univ. Hartford Konover Center
200 Bloomfield Ave                                      
Transition fair, not a workshop

Monday, April 22                        6:30                 Simsbury Public Library
725 Hopmeadow Street, 
Program Rm. 2, Lower Level
Click to Register

Friday, May 3                       7am - 3:30   Autism Education Conference
Mashantucket Pequot Museum, 
110 Pequot Trail, Ledyard Center, CT
Registration required                     Exhibitor at conference, not a workshop

Wednesday, May 15                                         Southington High School
720 Pleasant Street, Southington                 Transition fair, not a workshop

(back to top)



Our Educational Workshop

Our educational and empowering workshop has been hosted by 70 organizations throughout the state of CT.  We educate families on the importance of planning for the future of their child or dependent with special needs, and address these important issues:

  • Special Needs Trusts
  • New ABLE Act
  • Guardianship and Conservatorship
  • Protecting Government Benefit Eligibility
  • SSI, SSDI, Medicaid
  • Financial Planning and Funding Options  
  • Letter of Intent                                        

These vital issues help ensure lifetime care and quality of life for your loved one.  Our workshop provides a unique opportunity to learn from someone who has personal experience with these same issues. 
To schedule a workshop, please contact Janet Hawkins at 860.573.4089 or jhawkinsmtn@futuresplanned.com.                  
(back to top)



New ABLE Act

Since the summer of 2016, people with disabilities are now ABLE to save for their future!  Learn about ABLE accounts at:
National ABLE Resource Center.....www.ablenrc.org/

What are ABLE accounts?  And 10 Things you should know about them....www.ablenrc.org/about/what-are-able-accounts

How do I open anABLE account?..... 


Biggest Mistakes Parents Make When Planning For A Child With Special Needs

  • Assuming Special Needs Planning is only necessary for those individuals with profound challenges.

If your loved one is high functioning, or in the ‘gray area’, you need to ask yourself…

  • Without your continued support, will they be able to live at a standard of living you would want for them?
  • Will they be capable of consistently maintaining a job at a level where they would be self-sufficient?
  • Is there the chance you may need to financially supplement their income throughout their life?
  • Will they be vulnerable to predators or creditors?
  • Would they benefit from having some level of financial guidance?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions or are simply unsure, then the process of Special Needs Planning can only help your loved one.  A Special Needs plan can provide the support structure to help protect your child in your absence.

  • Assuming planning does not need to be completed until a child is turning 18 and is eligible for benefits.

Special Needs Planning is not age specific, and should not be a process driven by an often urgent need to rearrange a child’s finances so they may qualify for benefits at age 18.  Just as all parents should plan for the future of their typical child(ren) when the parent(s) are no longer here, the need to plan for a child with special needs is typically more critical and often far more complex.  In addition to the costs of raising a typical child who will eventually be independent, greater funding is often required for a child with special needs to cover the cost of medical expenses, therapies, specialized child/adult care, etc.  More importantly, these costs may be lifelong.

  • Failure to complete and communicate a Special Needs plan.

Once all of the legal work is complete, including wills, Power of Attorney, Health Care directives, and the appropriate Special Needs Trust, there are still steps that need to be taken.  While a Will directs where our personal assets will pass to, it does not provide direction for retirement plans (IRA, 401K, 403B, etc.), annuities or life insurance.  These assets pass by beneficiary designation.  These beneficiary designations need to be updated regularly to reflect your goals.  While most people who are married will name their spouse as their primary beneficiary, they typically will name their children as the contingent or secondary beneficiary.  This can be catastrophic for families that have children with special needs.

In addition, it is very important to communicate a Special Needs Plan to other family members.  It is possible that a well-meaning, but otherwise misinformed relative may leave assets directly to your loved one, either intentionally or unintentionally.  This again could disrupt a well-designed plan.

  • Having assets in your child's name.

In most states, when your child turns 18 they cannot have more than $2,000 in their name, or they will not be eligible for government benefits such as Medicaid (supported living, day programs, health insurance, etc.) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which in 2016 should amount to $733/month.  In the state of CT, the limit your child can have to qualify for Medicaid benefits is $1600.  It is extremely important you are aware of these asset limits, and plan accordingly so as not to jeopardize your child’s eligibility for these very crucial benefits today or in the future.

  • Assuming that having a Special Needs Trust is sufficient.

“My child has a Special Needs Trust, so we’re all set.”

This often occurs when a family sees an attorney without the guidance of a financial advisor who has experience with Special Needs Planning.  It is important to explore funding strategies that will ensure there will be sufficient resources available to continue the lifestyle you want for your child in your absence.

Quite often, some form of permanent Life Insurance is utilized as a financial tool to ensure adequate funding of the Special Needs Trust once both parents are deceased.  Remember, a Special Needs Plan without adequate funding in place can be little more than an empty promise.

  • Failure to consult and work with the proper advisors.

In order to ensure you receive the proper advice and direction throughout this highly specialized planning process, it is critical to work with a proficient team that understands the unique needs of your loved one.

  • Assuming government benefits will be sufficient.

In light of the continuing budgetary cuts to social services, both on the state and federal level, it would be risky to assume future government benefits will be sufficient to maintain your loved one’s quality of life.  As it stands today, government benefits merely provide bare bones necessities for many individuals.

  • Disinheriting your child with special needs.

It is not uncommon for families to be instructed by otherwise well-meaning individuals or advisors to ‘disinherit’ their child with special needs in order to preserve the child’s eligibility for government benefits.  Remember, these public benefits rarely provide for more than just the ‘bare bone’ necessities.  Families are then told to leave their assets to their typical child, and have them ‘take care of’ their sibling with special needs.  We refer to this as a morally obligated gift that is fraught with dangers.

What if your typical child is sued?  Divorces?  Has financial problems?  Becomes ill or passes away before their sibling with special needs?

In all of these circumstances, the assets you left for your child with special needs will be completely unprotected.  A properly drafted Special Needs Trust is a far better and safer solution. 

  • Failure to have a will.

The truth is, we all do have a Will.  The question is who created it…you or your state?  If you did not create it, the state has one waiting for you, and one thing you can be sure of is that it will not be in the best interest of your child with special needs.                                                                         

  • Procrastination.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines procrastination as “putting off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.” 

We understand that the challenges of life with a loved one with special needs can be all-consuming.  We will walk beside you as you navigate the journey of Special Needs Planning.  Given the current fiscal landscape of the federal and state governments, proactive planning is increasingly important.

Please take the opportunity to educate yourself and make informed decisions for your child.  It will bring a sense of relief to know that a well thought out plan is in place for your child’s future.                                                      
(back to top)


Special Needs Planning Quiz

  1. Do you have a vision of how your loved one will live when you are no longer here?  
  2. Have you formally identified a guardian, conservator, or trustee for your loved one?
  3. Do you have a complete understanding of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and other government benefits?    
  4. Do you have a written Letter of Intent that future caregivers can follow?
  5. Do you have a Special Needs Trust set up to preserve government benefits?
  6. Have you made provisions to fund your loved one’s trust with life insurance or other assets?  
  7. Have you coordinated your Special Needs planning with other relatives?    
  8. Are you certain your loved one will be able to earn a living sufficient enough to support themselves without your continued support?                
  9. Are you confident government benefits will sufficiently support your loved one in a manner that is acceptable to you?           
  10. Are you confident you have done everything possible to protect your loved one’s financial future?                            

 If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions or are simply unsure, then the process of Special Needs Planning can only help your loved one.  A Special Needs plan can provide the vitally important support structure that is so necessary to protect your child in your absence.                                      (back to top)