Special Needs: How to Improve Your Loved One’s Quality of Life

Three Steps You Can Take to Make a Positive Impact Now

When it comes to planning for an individual with special needs, there are a lot of moving parts that come into play. From the financial planner and Social Security counselor, to physicians, therapists, and caregivers, sometimes it can feel impossible to see the forest through the trees. At Aviance Capital Partners, our mission is to alleviate this struggle and make it easier for you to care for your loved one. In this article, we will dive deeper into our Special Needs Planning series, discussing 3 potential ways to improve your loved one’s quality of life.

1. Make Sure Your Special Needs Team is Working for You & Your Loved One

It can be exacerbating to hire someone who you believe is on your side only to feel like they are actually making your life harder. This is especially true for special needs families, who often have 5-10 professionals involved in their lives daily. One of the most important things you can do to ensure your loved one’s quality of life is maximized is to coordinate your team of professionals and make sure they are all working toward a common goal: helping your family thrive, rather than just survive.

Our goal is to be a strong pillar of support in your outer circle, acting as a point of contact and coordinator for all the other financial professionals in your lives. We hope to streamline the process and keep your overall financial plan on track, and also free up your time so that you can spend it enjoying life with your loved ones.

2. Structure Private Resources in an Efficient Way

Private resources (i.e., not government benefits) are often required to provide the desired quality of life for an individual with special needs. As important as government benefits are, they are often only a part of the equation. They are only meant to provide for essentials like food, housing, and medical care and personal items like clothing, entertainment, transportation, and technology are usually not covered.

Not only are many of these items borderline needs, but they can also go a long way in helping individuals with special needs thrive. We therefore believe private resources are necessary to provide your loved one with the items they need to live the life they deserve, rather than the bare minimum the government provides.

Unfortunately, however, if your loved one has access to too many private resources, their eligibility for government benefits could be negatively affected. It is a fine line between providing for your child and creating unintended consequences in the form of benefit ineligibility. You can avoid this issue by asking three questions before gifting cash or assets to your loved one:

Who Should Receive the Assets in Question?

Since any assets over $2,000 will disqualify an individual for government assistance, it is important that the individual with special needs does not have a legal claim to any assets intended to provide financial support.

This means the assets need to be received by a separate legal entity, typically a trust.

How Should the Assets be Received?

Generally, assets should be received in a third-party manner as much as possible to ensure the individual with special needs does not become disqualified for government benefits. No matter how the assets are received, they can be used to purchase items and experiences that can improve your loved one’s quality of life.

When Should the Recipient Receive the Assets?

This is an important question because there is a common misconception that in order to utilize a trust it must be funded with tens of thousands of dollars right away. This is simply not the case. Trust assets can be built up over time. What’s critical in planning is that the necessary structure to receive the assets is in place at the earliest possible time—even if the accounts remain unfunded—to avoid unintended consequences from gifting money or assets outright to your child.

2. Understand Ableism and the Impact It Can Have on Your Loved One

Some of the biggest challenges that individuals with special needs face are the stigmas, stereotypes, and assumptions that come along with their conditions. Because of this, the social aspects of disability can often be just as, if not more, debilitating than the diagnoses themselves.[1] In fact, the stigma associated with conditions like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been shown to negatively impact the well-being of those living with this diagnosis.[2]

Ableism, or the assumption that disabled people are inferior or somehow less than able-bodied people, is rampant. These assumptions can even come from people and professionals who are actively involved in the special needs community and claim to know better. Attorneys, financial planners, and even doctors and therapists are not immune to ableist assumptions and language.

That’s why it’s so important to understand what ableism is, how it is portrayed, and how to avoid working with professionals who do not understand or respect the unique experiences of those with special needs.

One way to vet professionals is to ask about their backgrounds. This includes the typical questions about education and credentials, but it also includes more specific questions about if they have ever worked with an individual with special needs before. If the professional deflects this question or says that your family is the first, that can be a sign that they are not well-versed in the challenges and unique needs of the community and may not be sensitive to your loved one’s needs.

On a personal level, practicing person-first language and presuming competence are two other ways to reduce ableism in the special needs community. Instead of defining a person by their diagnosis, consider instead that they are a fully whole human being who happens to be diagnosed with XYZ. Don’t assume that someone who is non-verbal has nothing of value to say. Conversely, don’t assume that a person who seems to interact with the world with relative ease doesn’t have their own struggles with disability.

Let’s also remove the assumption that the family members of those with special needs are miserable and don’t feel genuine love or have quality relationships with their loved ones. Though the lives of both special needs children and their families may look a little different, they are no less worthy or valuable than a neurotypical family. A little compassion and understanding can go a long way in boosting the quality of life for those in the special needs community.

How We Can Help

At Aviance Capital Partners, we have both the education and the firsthand experience to understand the unique challenges faced by the special needs community. As a firm, we have several personal and professional connections to this community, and we have dedicated ourselves to providing quality financial services to those with special needs and their families. If you would like to learn more about our firm or our financial planning process, please reach out to us at wealthrelations@aviancepartners.com or (239) 598-4747.

Disclosures: Aviance Capital Partners, LLC (“ACP”) is an SEC registered investment adviser located in Naples, Florida. Registration as an investment adviser is not an endorsement by securities regulators and does not imply that ACP has attained a certain level of skill, training, or ability. While information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date, ACP does not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of ACP as of the date of publication and are subject to change. Not all services will be appropriate or necessary for all clients, and the potential value and benefit of the ACP’s services will vary based upon the client’s individual investment, financial, and tax circumstances. The effectiveness and potential success of a tax strategy, investment strategy, and financial plan depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the manner and timing of implementation, coordination with the client and the client’s other engaged professionals, and market conditions. This should not be construed as specific investment, financial planning or tax advice tailored to an individual reader. ACP suggests that readers consult a financial professional, attorney or tax advisory professional about their specific financial, legal or tax situation. Past performance does not guarantee future results. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss, and different investments and types of investments involve varying degrees of risk. There can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy, including those undertaken or recommended by ACP, will be profitable or equal any historical performance level. Additional information about ACP, including its Form ADV Part 2A describing its services, fees, and applicable conflicts of interest and its Form CRS is available upon request and at https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/summary/146597. For current ACP clients, please advise us promptly in writing, if there are ever any changes in your financial situation or investment objectives, if you wish to impose any reasonable restrictions to our management of your account, or if you have not been receiving at least quarterly account statements from your account custodian.

[1] The Social Model of Disability Explained — Social Creatures (thesocialcreatures.org)

[2] Understanding Stigma in Autism: A Narrative Review and Theoretical Model | Autism in Adulthood (liebertpub.com)

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