Document your Intent

January 14, 2008 Kyron No Comments

In the final piece on estate planning I’m going to talk about the piece that honestly I’ve been dreading – probably because doing mine was such a struggle, so I don’t want anyone sitting there thinking I’m so perfect and organized.

It’s called a Letter of Intent or Life Plan. It’s purpose is two-fold. First is to provide a bunch of background information to a potential caregiver/guardian might need either because you are incapacitated (think significant injury that takes you completely out of the day to day for an extended period) or at the eventuality of your death. The second is to give this person an understanding of your hopes and desires for the future of your child. Things you’d like to see your child experience and achieve.

My attorney provided me with some great software to do this with yours may or may not. If not – THIS IS THE PLACE TO GO. It’s a ton of reading so I’ve taken the liberty to consolidating a bunch of it into a startup guide, using illustrations of what I’ve done to put together mine for Katherine to give you an idea of what to do. The Betterway Press gave me some good feedback when doing this for Katherine. I think you’ll find it useful as well.

While I did mine on the computer, you can certainly do yours in a notebook/binder.
Here are the sections you should have

  • Background Information – Everybody’s name (this means yours, spouse’s, other children) Dates of birth, Social Security numbers.
  • Advisors – Lawyers, Accountants, Insurance broker, investment advisors, bankers, other experts that help your child. For Katherine, this group includes her support coordinators for her waiver services as well as the support person, Sharon who makes it possible for us to keep Katherine at home. Make sure to include as much contact information for each of these individuals. I also made sure to differentiate as much between the different waiver coordinators and their roles as possible. Most people will figure out what the lawyer does;)
  • Important Documents – where do you keep your estate plan (Wills, Living Wills, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney, Special Needs Trust? Insurance policies? Bank accounts? Trust account? Safe deposit box? We have a banker that we use at our local branch who is familiar with us and the trust account and checking account blah blah – I have her name in here as well as in advisors. Where’s the key to the Safe Deposit box? I also have copies of medical insurance cards in here (front and back).
  • Medical – yup this was one of the biggies – took me a lot of time – much of which is now also cross referenced with accessed to Katherine’s Medefile account. It should include:
    • A list of doctors, their locations, phone numbers (if you have a particularly useful contact in the office staff at a doctors office – list their name. If someone is taking over for your short term or long term they can leverage that to get additional help from someone familiar with your child.)
    • A list of vaccinations – you can usually get a copy of this from your pediatrician – just insert it into the file
    • Medications – a current list with dosages and times (along with special instructions on how to dispense like crush and put in applesauce); a list of medication allergies medications which may have been tried, for what, the results and side effects
  • Diet – this can be as serious as gluten free diets or diabetic diets but should also include information about your child’s likes and dislikes. Katherine currently has some pretty restrictive guidelines because of her braces. The list of restrictions given to us by the orthodontist goes in here.
  • Safety – for some kids this will be easy – for others really critical and intense. I’m guessing that a child with osteogenesis imperfect (sometimes known as brittle bone disease) it would be far more intense. For Katherine it includes the fact that sometimes her behaviors are self-injurious in nature and things to do to protect her as well as the fact that strangers is NOT a concept she does well. Being in public requires constant vigilance.
  • Placements – where is your child in school? Do they live somewhere other than with you? Where do they work? Give as much history as possible and what your hopes are for the future. With Katherine we’ve talked about the schooling she’s received, private as well as public, the residential treatment and what we hope for her future in high school. I have current IEP information included in here as well as things I am hoping to get out of the school district; training and work and living situations for the future – some of this is with Katherine’s input.
  • Hobbies and recreation – what does your child love to do? Favorite places to visit? Camps the attend? Parks to visit? Katherine has a couple of local parks she loves, loves going to the theater (one of the things she’ll actually sit still for) she loves going to the movies, you get the idea…
  • Religion – what religion do you practice? Do you attend a particular church? Do you go regularly or are you what my mother would have called a submarine parishioner (surfacing for major holidays). Are there practices in service that your child has problems with or looks forward to participating in? Katherine wants to sit as close to the front as I let her and hold the hymnal – and ALWAYS goes up with the kids for the children’s sermon (even if she’s the oldest by about 7 years). It’s important to her and if she’s stopped from doing these things it can (and has) lead to problems.
  • Finances – what resources are available for what. Trust accounts, savings accounts, government benefits? For Katherine I talk about the fact that she could qualify for SSI and how to go about that.

I also have another tab about Katherine’s waiver services. What it will do for her and what it won’t.  What hoops you have to go through annually to renew it, timelines, and phone numbers and emails of people who can help when some low level clerk in a position to wreak havoc inevitably loses paperwork, hits the wrong button on the keyboard or some other such thing which promises to screw up these critical services. You may need a tab for something specific to your child.

To start with get SOMETHING going. Anything is better than nothing. It’s overwhelming to try to sit down and do all of this at once (take it from me – did it and failed miserably!) I finally broke it into pieces and maybe this will help you. I got the contacts together for each section. Then I moved section by section and set an ½ hour at the end of the night for a couple of weeks and it really came together much easier.

Always keep in mind this is a work in progress. I try (note the word try) to revisit this monthly. The younger your child is the more often it’s likely to change. If you have chosen a guardian – go over this document during a quiet moment with them. Have them look it over and ask them if there is information they want included. Remember, the idea is that this is a blueprint for them to follow through with your vision and plan. Make sure it’s as helpful as it can be. Most of all don’t sweat it – broken into pieces this Letter of Intent is a piece of cake – with a cup of coffee:)

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