Writing a Memorandum of Intent for a Special Needs Child

How can you ensure that your special needs child will remain well cared for and secure once others assume the role of guardian or caregiver? While creating a financial plan and establishing a specialized trust are central to preparing for your child’s future, special needs planners also advise families to write down their intentions and expectations in a document referred to as a Memorandum of Intent, also known as a “Letter of Intent.”

Day in and day out, over the lifetime of a child with disabilities, parents have learned (often through trial and error) just what should be done to care for their loved one with special needs. Small wonder that parents are concerned about whether and how the “hands on” care will be continued when they die or lose the capacity to continue. In the Letter of Intent, parents communicate the necessary instructions for their successor caregivers and trustees about the “nuts and bolts” of care for their disabled child.

The Memorandum is not legally binding and, when directions conflict, those in wills, trusts and other legal documents take precedence. But for “non-legal” matters, it will serve as the primary source of information about your child, providing a roadmap for the courts, guardians, caregivers and others involved in your child’s life. That can be critical in easing your child’s transition, ensuring continuity of care and treatment, as well as appropriate decision-making regarding living arrangements and other lifestyle choices.

Topics that can be included in a Memorandum, include the following:

  • Individuals and organizations that should be contacted upon your death or incapacity
  • Your child’s health care and therapeutic needs
  • Your preferences for education, religion, and child-rearing practices
  • Contact information for doctors, therapists and teachers
  • Your child’s personal history, degree of independence or mobility, behavioral issues, and need for assistive technologies
  • Your child’s interests and personality traits
  • The location of medical records and other important documents.

While writing a Memorandum of Intent can be time-consuming and emotionally taxing, it’s very important not to postpone this task. Once the Memorandum is complete, place the original in a secure location and distribute copies to others involved in your child’s life. Then, mark your calendar, setting aside time to revise the Memorandum at least once a year so it will continue to reflect your child’s current life stage and situation.

In conclusion, a well-done, comprehensive Letter of Intent for successor caregivers and trustees can help assure as high a quality of care as that provided by the parents. In today’s world, parents who have prepared a Special Needs Trust should communicate how they would like the disabled child to be cared for in a separate Letter of Intent.

The Letter of Intent can be done by filling out a form while other parents may prefer to hand write or type it on a computer as a narrative. Some may want to do both — complete the form and do a narrative. One such form is attached here – letter-of-intent.