Laura Williams, CFP®, a financial advisor at Sensible, recently earned her Chartered Special Needs Consultant® (ChSNC®) designation from the American College of Financial Services. This comprehensive program teaches financial professionals about trusts, wills, guardianships, and other topics aimed specifically toward protecting the assets and rights of special needs individuals.
As Laura began working with clients, she was struck by how many had family members with special needs. “As I dug deeper into the subject, I found it was more complex than I had imagined,” said Laura. “I wanted to learn more.”
Laura joined Sensible Financial in 2014, after graduating from Bentley University with a B.S. in Finance. She earned her Certificate in Financial Planning from Boston University and in 2017 earned her Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) designation, a prerequisite for the ChSNC® designation.
Caring for a family member with special needs can seem daunting
Families with members who have special needs often spend many years focused on obtaining the best education possible. Seeking out schools, professionals, and special programs can be all consuming. As individuals with special needs approach the age of majority, the financial challenges may take center stage.
Planning for your family’s financial future is difficult. Adding the duty and privilege of caring for a family member with special needs increases the degree of complexity. With lower earning potential and uncertain career possibilities, people with special needs may have a hard time supporting themselves, let alone saving enough to provide for their retirement. Often their families support them or help defray their living costs. What happens to them when those supporting relatives pass on? Without plans in place, some cannot afford to live independently.
Financial advisors with the ChSNC® designation provide a wide range of information to families seeking to protect individuals with special needs. “Often, families who have members with special needs turn to estate planning attorneys,” said Laura. “That’s an essential step, but it’s just one among many. In addition to trusts, powers-of-attorney, and wills, a Chartered Special Needs Consultant® can advise clients on relevant Social Security benefits, Medicaid, and tax deductions or credits.
As with any financial plan, one for an individual with special needs must develop over time, as their capabilities develop, and as new opportunities emerge. It’s essential for the plan to identify the resources required, incorporate government and other benefits available, and adopt a legal structure that integrates all of them. “Thanks to my additional training, I can now communicate more effectively with attorneys and I know what to look for. I’m in a position to better serve my clients,” said Laura.
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