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By Adam Zoll | 08-28-2013 09:30 AM

Key Considerations for Special-Needs Planning

Coordinating financial assistance with government benefits and anticipating the need for flexibility are central to crafting a sensible plan for special-needs kids.

Adam Zoll: For Morningstar, I’m Adam Zoll.

Raising a family can pose a financial challenge to any parent. But those with special-needs children and face their own unique set of financial challenges.

Here to talk about some of these challenges and strategies to deal with them is Brian Rubin. Brian is a board member of the Special Needs Alliance, a national non-profit association of attorneys specializing in special needs planning, and he’s based in Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Brian, thanks for being with us by phone today.

Brian Rubin: My pleasure. Thank you.

Zoll: Let's first talk about what are some of these unique financial challenges that families with special needs children face that families with normally developing children may not be aware of.

Rubin: Well, as I like to start by explaining to parents, I, myself, have three children, one of whom, Mitch, is now 33 years old and has autism. When you're going to have children, you read all the books, you're prepared, and you know that your child in two months is going to do this, and four months going to do this, and five months going to do that. Then all of a sudden you realize you have one child for whom there is a different plan. They're not going to do what you anticipate. They're not going to be there in your twilight years to take care of you. They're going to have a different life plan.

With that, all of a sudden all your plans about, well, I need to save for college education for my child--well, those plans are altered. So instead of thinking about, well, how much money do I need to save, if I passed away prematurely, for a college for my child, you're now saying for one child, well, for the rest of their lifetime what will inflation be, what will return on investments be, what government benefit programs will even exist, and of those, what will my child be eligible for? There are so many variables, that it's really impossible to come up with a good number as to how much the child is going to need.

Therefore, the most important question is, number one, you can't help your child unless you take care of yourself. So you need to do your own appropriate financial planning, so that you're going to be able to take care of the child, provide for the child.

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