There are certain times in life when we make plans. We plan our vacations – where we are going, how long we will stay, what we will do. We make plans for special events in our lives like graduations and weddings – who will be invited, where it will be, and how to budget for all the moving parts.

When we make plans like these we are thinking ahead and imagining the possibilities and the resources needed in the future to make sure that everything will work out in the most ideal way possible.

We need to do the same for our loved ones with disabilities, and that kind of preparation is called a life plan.

A life plan is a plan for how to properly care for and provide for a loved one with a disability throughout all stages of your and their lives.

Those stages include:

  • While they are young and you are working
  • When they turn 18 and become emancipated adults in the eyes of the state and federal government
  • At age 21 when they transition out of school-based services and into the world of adult services and challenges
  • When you, as parents are retired (or thinking about retiring) from work and your children, are in their adulthood or middle age
  • When you as parents are seniors and no longer able to provide the same level of hands-on care or support for your loved ones
  • And finally, when you have passed and your loved ones’ lives carry on without you

If prepared properly, a good, thoughtful life plan will address all of the variables and needs of the entire family at each of those critical life stages.

For example, how do we save for and provide higher education for our other children while balancing the care needs of our children with disabilities? How do we pay for and finance effective and efficient costs of care for education, therapy, and healthcare?

What do we need to know so that our loved ones are not disqualified from any of the essential government benefits and services they may need throughout their lives? How do we understand what the rules are so that nobody is taking actions that will unwittingly have negative consequences on future care?

We want to minimize confusion. If there is no life plan then no one knows what is expected of them, what role they have to play, or where the resources are or will come from to help support the lifestyle and maintain the care of the loved one. This creates stress and strife to balance and figure out all of these demands, at a time when the attention most needs to be focused on maintaining care and continuity of services.

It is never too early to start working on your family’s life plan, but time does move quickly and it can eventually become too late to properly address many of these concerns in a proactive manner. There is help available, but you need to seek it out. You should reach out to your trusted special needs planning professionals soon to get this important process started.

Thumbnail pic of authorRichard Lofredo, ChFC, CLU, ChSNC, is a respected financial professional and educator with three decades of experience providing financial planning strategies who provides valuable expertise to families with special needs. He understands that families and guardians of children with special needs face unique challenges — retirement planning takes on a whole new meaning when you have a child that will someday be an adult who will depend on you for education, healthcare, and financial security. Satisfied clients speak of his guidance as having helped them focus on their financial health and feel more confident in their family’s future. Richard passionately continues to educate himself on government services available to the special needs community, as well as the challenges that face many families. Because of his continuous education, he can provide an understanding approach to financial planning that considers the unique circumstances of each family. Richard is well-equipped to guide families through this process, securing all aspects of financial planning that account for all members of the family. Richard is a Registered Representative & Investment Advisor of Park Avenue Securities, Financial Representative of Guardian.

Ezekiel “Zeke” Zimmerman, M.Ed., MBA is a respected financial professional and educator with over six years of experience providing financial planning strategies. Zeke’s focus includes insurance planning, money and wealth management, cash flow planning, business planning and retirement planning. His passion is special needs financial guidance with an emphasis on ensuring that care can be provided for the entire lifetime of a family member. As the parent of an autistic child, Zeke appreciates firsthand the pressures that special needs families face in order to provide for all of their disabled children’s lifetime financial needs while at the same time finding balance with all of the family’s other financial issues and concerns. Zeke often presents to other special needs parents, professionals, and community groups on topics related to special needs planning. This work is coordinated with special needs attorneys, organizations, and service providers in order to ensure that all financial, legal, educational, social, vocational, and healthcare needs can be properly addressed and that eligibility can be maintained for all essential government benefits. His process has helped many families to strategize around these otherwise overwhelming challenges.

Zeke lives in Manhattan with his wife, Sheila, and their 3 children, Jacob, Jonathan and Zoe.

Zeke is a Registered Representative & Investment Advisor of Park Avenue Securities, Financial Representative of Guardian.