Financial and Estate Planning for Persons with Diabilities, Elders and their Families

by James P. Lampertius

The quality of life of people with disabilities, elders and their families is often in direct proportion to their level of planning. Our role is to provide customized tools and solutions which not only protect their present quality of life, but reflect their dreams and adapt to changing needs.

To provide those solutions, we must anticipate the unique medical care, long-term care and financial management needs of the client. This goes beyond traditional estate planning tasks and involves a multi-disciplinary approach to our plans of action.

  • It means understanding the present and possible future “stages” of the client’s condition and the operative issues in each of those stages.
  • It entails reviewing the family dynamics and roles on issues as caregiving, medical decisions and financial management.
  • It means familiarity with the medical and long-term care systems applying to that type of illness, frailty or disability.

Often it is necessary to team with other professionals as the social worker, geriatrician, case manager and financial planner. See Mary L. Pannen, “A Win-Win Partnership: The Elder Law Attorney and Geriatric Care Manager,” 13 NAELA Quarterly 25 (Spring 2000).

Although each particular condition has different issues and traps for the unwary, there are groupings of disabilities and illness with common needs and concerns. For purposes of this outline, I have grouped disabilities into four areas:

  1. Developmental Disability;
  2. Adult-onset disability, consisting of chronic illness capable of rehabilitation and/or stabilization;
  3. Adult-onset disability, consisting of chronic degenerative illness; and
  4. End-stage terminal illness.

The first half of this outline treats some of the needs an elder law, special needs and disability attorney should anticipate on medical care, long-term care and financial management for each of these groupings.

The second half of this outline concentrates on some effective planning measures for such groupings as to both anticipated and unexpected needs. I differentiate between preventative planning measures and responsive planning measures.


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