You have completed and executed your plan for your special needs child. Everyone you’ve selected to serve—your guardian, your trustee, your health care proxy, your executor, and possibly a trust protector as well—has signed the paperwork. All set?
For now, yes. But it’s a good idea to review these selections on a regular basis, because change is inevitable as time goes on. Your life will change, as will the lives of the people you have designated to serve in your plan. Here are three questions to ask yourself in regards to changing these important players:
How often should I review my decisions? At least once a year, as a general rule. Some planners send their clients a letter or email on the signing anniversary listing their choices for beneficiary, trustee, guardian, and any other officers, prompting them to review the plan. Even if your planner doesn’t do this, you should make a note to check in with your decisions at the same time every year.
When should I consider replacing any of my agents? Any time there has been a big life change that could affect his ability to serve in the role. Examples include unexpected events such as a health care crisis, an unexpected death, or a job loss, as well as other transitions like divorce, relocation, or remarriage. Imagine your choice for guardian has just given birth to twins. How well can she care for your special needs child in these new circumstances?
Another consideration is age. The friends or relatives from your parents’ generation who stepped forward when you first made your plan as a young family may no longer be up to the task. You always want to be confident that your guardian or trustee is able and competent to take on the additional work of caring for your special needs child.
Some reasons to change agents may not be so obvious. Some life changes, though minor on the surface, could introduce conflicts of interest. Say the trustee of your child’s special needs trust accepted a sales position at a financial institution that is a competitor of the firm that holds the trust’s assets. Can he manage the trust’s finances without a personal bias? It’s worth a frank conversation at least.
What events in my own life might prompt me to reevaluate my choices? Apply the same standard to your own circumstances. Do you want the same team if you’ve had to relocate to another city due to a job change, for example? What if you become widowed or divorced? Also, bear in mind that once your special needs child hits the age of majority, you will no longer be able to make a lot of the decisions that you have probably been making for him during his childhood. This is a good time to check in with your special needs planner to go over what you’ll need to do for this transition, including guardianship and conservatorship if your family member is not competent to handle his own affairs.
What matters most are the interests of your special needs dependent. You chose the agents in your plan to meet this standard. Stay in touch with them regularly and evaluate their ability and willingness to serve. And don’t be afraid to ask them the right questions. They will appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness.