Planning for life’s milestones

America’s new retirement reality

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1 year 7 months
Submitted by Matt Stagner on Wed, 06/02/2021 - 14:14

Voya Cares has been watching the demographic and societal trends shaping our country — especially two fast-growing groups who have been particularly impacted by the pandemic: Sandwich Caregivers and Career Extenders.

“Sandwich Caregivers” provide unpaid care to an adult while also caring for children living in their home. As of 2019, there were 11 million of them or 28% of all caregivers**.

"Career Extenders" are working longer because they either enjoy the stimulation that their careers provide or do not have the resources to retire. Nearly 20% of Americans over age 65 — a total of 10.6 million people — are either working or looking for work, representing a 57-year high.+

Our just-launched position paper digs in to the emerging trends that are causing these two groups to grow, examines how their futures are being impacted, and most importantly, proposes how we can help them prepare for a secure financial future.

Traditional advice urges Americans to begin preparing early for retirement, targeting 80% of their pre-retirement annual income over a 25 year retirement period, and planning for an annual withdrawal of 4% of total investments++. However that advice misses the mark for Career Extenders and Sandwich Caregivers.

The Voya Cares® program recognizes, however, that many of the tenets of special needs financial planning can be applied for these two groups, emphasizing the use of government benefits in coordination with employee benefits to supplement available assets.

The first step on the road to a secure retirement is awareness and education to help both those in the financial services industry, as well as Career Extenders and Sandwich Caregivers themselves, recognize their unique circumstances. Educational materials and step-by-step guidance tailored to their unique challenges should be readily available when and where they need them.

Education and guidance must be backed up with tangible, specific solutions needed to help Sandwich Caregivers and Career Extenders prepare a long-term plan for the future. The following existing or developing solutions may be particularly useful:

  • Employee benefits offerings, like medical insurance coverage, health savings and flexible spending accounts, leave management programs, employer-paid back-up care and employee assistance programs can help to free up resources for retirement savings while positively impacting quality of life.
  • Government benefits offerings may provide assistance with income, medical, residential, educational and vocational needs. Coordinating employee and government benefits may help better leverage existing assets.
  • Debt mitigation programs, especially student loan debt, can be particularly helpful for people who are nearing retirement, since they have the greatest debt.
  • Emergency savings solutions enable individuals to build retirement savings while also being able to absorb short-term financial shocks and disruptions in income.
  • ABLE accounts can be a great way to set aside savings for eligible children and adults with disabilities, lessening the need for withdrawals from accounts earmarked solely for retirement.
  • Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and Roth IRAs are ways to put away money outside of a pension plan to supplement retirement income, and the income paid out from Roth IRAs also is tax free to help boost “take-home pay” in retirement.

To learn more about how Sandwich Caregivers and Career Extenders are unique in the challenges that they face when planning for their future health and wealth and how and the Voya Cares program is distinctively positioned to lead the conversation addressing these challenges, see America’s new retirement reality: COVID-19 amplifies demographic and societal trends, foreshadowing challenges that more Americans will face on the road to a financially secure retirement.

COVID and demographic trends foreshadow challenges to a financially secure retirement
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*Schneider, Mike. ”By 2060, a quarter of U.S. residents will be over age 65.” February 13, 2020. By 2060, a quarter of U.S. residents will be over age 65 (

**“Burning the Candle at Both Ends: Sandwich Generation Caregiving in the U.S.”, The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), November 2019.

+According to the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), analyzed by investment and financial-planning firm United Income and reported in Business Insider, April 29, 2019: Loudenback, Tanza. “One-fifth of older Americans are working past 'retirement age’, and it’s not because they can’t afford to retire.”

++Waggoner, John. “How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?” AARP, Jan. 6, 2021.

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America’s new retirement reality

Planning your wedding: Get off to a good start

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1 year 11 months
Submitted by Jennifer Song on Thu, 11/05/2020 - 10:23

For better or for worse, the days of parents picking up the entire tab for a wedding are, in many cases, a thing of the past. Nowadays, it’s much more common to find couples planning and paying for some — or even all — of their own weddings. And let’s face it, there is a silver lining in that. Want to get married on a mountainside or jumping out of an airplane? Go for it! When you’re footing the bill, you can make your wedding just what you want it to be.

If you’ve ever done any wedding shopping, you’ve probably suffered some sticker shock. But with a bit of planning, you may be able to lessen the pain and make your money go further.

Save for the big day

It doesn’t matter when your wedding is — the sooner you start saving for it, the more you’ll thank yourself later. If the date is still in the distant future, it may help to place your money in investments like stocks or mutual funds that may potentially earn a higher return. If you’re within a few months of your wedding date, a money market fund — which usually offers a higher interest rate and more flexibility than a traditional savings account — may be a good option. The most important thing is to put some money away for the big day. If that money can earn a respectable return, so much the better.

Don’t overextend yourself

It may be the big day, but it’s probably not worth digging a big financial hole. Consider planning your wedding around what you can realistically afford.

Be willing to compromise

If those elegant flower arrangements and guest party favors are putting you over budget, don’t be afraid to scale them back or ditch them altogether. Remember that your family and friends are there first and foremost to support you as you tie the knot.

Talk to Mom and Dad

Even if your parents aren’t footing the bill, they may want to help in some way. After all, this event is special for them too.

Give us a call

We’re not wedding planners, but we’re here to help. A Voya Financial Advisors retirement consultant will be more than happy to talk to you about the financial considerations and implications of planning your wedding.

Make your big day everything you want it to be
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This information is provided by Voya for your education only. Neither Voya nor its representatives offer tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax or legal advisor before making a tax-related investment/insurance decision.

Special needs planning for life’s milestones

Member for

1 year 10 months
Submitted by smoses on Thu, 09/03/2020 - 10:17

When a family member has a disability or special needs, life demands more from you, as caregiver — emotionally, physically, intellectually and financially. Developing a holistic plan can help you prepare for the predicted and navigate the unexpected.

What does it mean to create a holistic plan?

A holistic plan is created for the lifelong care of your family member with a disability or special needs — especially after the caregiver is no longer able to provide care — and looks at all aspects of life from a personal, legal and financial perspective. Developed over time, it changes to adapt to new circumstances and needs. While the plan focuses on your loved one with a disability or special needs, it will benefit your entire family, as well.

The plan addresses five life stages that may require important planning decisions for both caregivers, and individuals with disabilities or special needs.

  1. Birth to age three: foundation
  2. Age three to 22: childhood and transitioning to adulthood
  3. Age 22 and older: adulthood
  4. Retirement
  5. Later in life and beyond caregivers' lifetimes

Beginning the planning process

After receiving a diagnosis of a loved one’s disability or special needs, families may require considerable time to accept and adjust to their new reality. However, once your family is ready, referencing the five life stages will help you evaluate your current financial picture and set goals to meet future needs.

Think about how your loved one’s needs might transition over their lifetime. Examine your spending habits, create a budget, anticipate how expenses will change, and establish an emergency fund account. Review all your accounts and policies that have beneficiary options and ensure beneficiaries are appropriately designated. Naming your loved one with a disability or special needs may jeopardize their eligibility for needs-based government benefits, so consider a special needs trust.

Create your plan with professionals — such as a special needs attorney, financial advisor and accountant — who are experienced working with the disabilities and special needs community. They will know the laws affecting you and the financial options available. They’ll also help ensure that all the elements of your plan work together, with legal documents drafted properly, so one doesn’t invalidate another.

Here are five life stage considerations to help you create your plan.

Stage 1

Birth to age three: foundation

Build a network

Benefit from the experience, information, resources and support you’ll find in the community. Reach out to friends, family, other families facing similar situations, your school’s special education staff and special education advocates, medical professionals, spiritual advisors, social services case workers, and organizations such as the Caregiver Action Network.

Caregivers' employment

Some adult caregivers who have a partner may find it more practical for one to stop working to care for their loved one, rather than hiring professionals and managing time off from work for emergencies and medical appointments. Be sure to adjust your budget to a single-income household, if this is your goal. Consider available employee benefits that support caregivers, including flexible paid time off and caregiver coordination services, health savings accounts (HSA), legal services, medical coverage, and support services such as Employee Resource Groups and Employee Assistance Programs.

Learn your rights

Knowing your rights makes you better able to achieve your goals. Begin with these:

Early Intervention

Research your state and county early intervention and disability programs and services including physical and speech therapy, counseling, assistive devices and more. Caregivers of children under age three who have concerns about their children’s development can ask their pediatrician for a referral to an early intervention program for evaluation. If eligibility for early intervention is established, an Individualized Family Services Plan (ISFP) will be prepared.

Letter of intent

The Letter of Intent (LOI) is a guidebook-like reference for future guardians and caregivers of your loved one that compiles personal, medical, financial and social information about your loved one and provides practical and vital information for when the original caregiver no longer is able to do so. As things change in your loved one’s life, regularly update the LOI to keep the information current. An LOI also allows families to capture the vision for their loved ones’ future. Get started by downloading the Voya Cares template.

Life insurance

Life insurance policies can be a fundamental part of a holistic plan. Life insurance policies can be used to fund a special needs trust or leave a legacy for other children, family members and charitable organizations. Pay particular attention to titling and ownership of policies, and especially who are named as beneficiaries.

Government benefits-entitlements

Many government benefit programs based on your work history may benefit your family, such as Social Security Survivor Benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicare, Childhood Disability Benefit (CDB) and more. Take the Benefits Eligibility Screening Test to determine eligibility.

Retirement savings

Caregivers’ retirement savings should be kept separate from the savings for your loved one’s future life plan (if possible). A carefully crafted life plan that addresses each of the life stages will help ensure that a loved one’s living expenses are covered by their own earnings, savings, investments or retirement account, rather than the caregivers’ retirement savings.

Legal instruments

Meet with a special needs attorney to create new or review existing legal documents including wills, medical directives, powers of attorney and trusts. Be sure any inheritance bequeathed to a person with a disability or special needs does not put at risk the financial strategy created for them.

Stage 2

Age three to 22 childhood and transitioning into adulthood


Public schools are mandated to provide education and accommodations for children with disabilities and special needs. Parents should collaborate closely with special education professionals in their school district to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to help their child succeed in school. It’s reviewed and updated throughout the years and includes services for transitioning into adulthood. Private school costs may be eligible for tax deductions, consult a tax professional to see what expenses you can deduct.


Adult children who lack decision-making capacity may need a legal guardian when they reach the age of majority—which is age 18 in many states. Also consider who you’d want as successor guardians to would assume guardianship, when original caregivers no longer able to. You can document these wishes in your letter of intent or in your will. However, guardianship isn’t the only option for those who may need help making life decisions, consider a less restrictive choice, like Supported Decision Making or Powers of Attorney.

Stage 3

Age 22 and beyond: adulthood

Socialization and recreation

Socializing enriches lives. Social and recreational opportunities may come naturally during the school years but take conscious thought and planning during adulthood. Building recreational costs into the budget for the entire family, including for a loved one with a disability or special needs throughout their lifetime.


Depending on the degree of independence, planning should begin concerning where adults with special needs will live. Options include an apartment added to the family home, a separate apartment or home, an assisted living residence or a home established with other adults with disabilities and special needs. Residential needs can vary during a person’s lifetime, and options for persons with disabilities and special needs continue to evolve.


Many adults with disabilities or special needs may want to work when they are old enough. Investigate state and local nonprofit organizations and businesses offering programs to help adults with disabilities or special needs find and keep jobs, including job coaching and on-the-job support.


Consider transportation needs for school, employment or recreation over the course of a lifetime and build a plan that will help cover the costs.

Government benefits- public assistance

Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Children’s Health Insurance Program, Extra Help prescription program and Medicaid are a few of the programs that may be available for individuals and families with limited financial resources.

If an adult receives needs-based government benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid, accumulating assets of $2,000 or more may jeopardize eligibility for those benefits. There also are income limitations for each government benefit program that need to be considered. Tools like ABLE accounts and special needs trusts can help maintain eligibility, in the event government benefits are needed, now or in the future.

While the family’s assets and income are considered while a child is considered a minor, when they reach age 18 (in most states), eligibility is based solely on their own income and assets. This means that many more individuals can access income and services after their 18th birthday, even if still living in their family’s home.

Stage 4


Social Security decisions

Deciding when to claim Social Security retirement benefits is one of the most important decisions many people make in their later years. When a caregiver claims Social Security retirement (or benefits begin due to disability or death of the worker), additional benefits may be available for their dependent adult with a disability. The Childhood Disability Benefit (CDB) can provide income that is approximately 50% of a worker’s full Social Security retirement payment during their life, and up to 75% as a survivor benefit after the worker passes away.

Retirement accounts

Saving for retirement is one of the most important financial goals for nearly all Americans, but for the disabilities community it may take on additional significance and challenges. Caregivers may need to save more for retirement to cover the additional costs associated with providing care during their retirement. People with disabilities who have employer-sponsored retirement plans, like 401(k)s, profit sharing plans or pensions, may have to reposition those assets upon retirement to preserve government benefits eligibility. Meet with a financial professional to make sure your retirement plans are in order.


Before a loved one finishes high school, consideration should begin concerning where they will live during adulthood. Options include an apartment added to the family home, a separate apartment or home, an assisted living residence, a home established with other loved ones of adult children with disabilities and special needs and more. Residential needs can vary during a person’s lifetime, and options for persons with disabilities and special needs continue to evolve.

An adult loved may want to work when they are old enough. Investigate local organizations and businesses offering programs to help adults with disability or special needs find and keep a job, including job coaching and on-the-job support.

If an adult receives needs-based government benefits, accumulating assets of $2,000 or more may jeopardize eligibility for those benefits. There are also income limitations for each benefit program that need to be considered. Even if a family hasn’t applied yet, planning ahead is advised, just in case government benefits may be needed in the future.

Stage 5

Later in life and beyond caregivers’ lifetimes


As we get older, the need for care — and for housing arrangements that provide the proper level of care — can increase. Make sure your plans include the cost of your own housing needs, as well as the unique needs of the loved ones for whom you provide care.

Health care

Given the rising cost of health care, choosing the right coverage is among the most important decisions to be made in and around retirement. This decision may include enrollment in Medicare and Medicare supplemental plans, employer plans or purchasing your own coverage through the health care exchange. If you choose a high deductible health care plan, and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) may also be available.

What happens after the caregivers’ death

It’s difficult to think about what happens to our loved ones after we’re gone, but it’s critical to plan for continuity of care and resources that can provide the quality of life they deserve. Work with a well-qualified attorney to make sure your estate plans — including ownership and beneficiary designations — are up-to-date and will help ensure your wishes are carried out after your death. Creating a letter of intent and naming a successor caregiver can help secure your loved one’s care.

Special needs trusts (SNT)

SNTs can pay for certain living expenses that a loved one with a disability or special needs will have during their lifetime. There are different types of SNTs, and they have many sources of funding: gifts from friends and family, as well as inheritances from wills, life insurance policies, or other accounts or policies that are directed to the trust. Funds in a special needs trust typically won’t be counted when qualifying a person for needs-based government benefits. Unused funds, depending on the trust chosen, may be bequeathed to other heirs. A special needs attorney can explain the benefits of having an SNT.

Plan well, live better

A holistic plan developed taking into consideration each of the stages in a child’s life who has a disability or special needs can maintain and improve a family’s lifestyle and give loved ones with a disability or special needs a lifetime of support and financial security.

Prepare well, live better
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This material is provided for general and educational purposes only; it is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk. Please consult an independent legal or financial advisor for specific advice about your individual situation.

Products and services offered through the Voya® family of companies.

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Special Needs Planning for Life’s Milestones

Beneficiaries with disabilities or special needs

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1 year 10 months
Submitted by smoses on Fri, 08/28/2020 - 14:44

Whether you’re just starting out in life or you’re entering retirement, designating a beneficiary with disabilities or special needs requires some extra thought and planning ahead.

Assumptions affect families

Many people make financial decisions based on ideas like, “I will outlive that person,” or “Their sibling will take care of them, when we’re gone.” But taking the time to create a plan for everyone’s future will give you the peace of mind you deserve. Here are some tips to follow:

Designate the person whom you actually want to receive the funds. This may sound obvious, but it’s risky to designate someone else as beneficiary, with the hopes that they will take care of your loved ones. Designate the person you want to ultimately receive the funds, unless there’s a specific structure already in place for them, such as a trust or ABLE account. You also always should designate contingent beneficiaries for the funds, in case of a beneficiary’s death.

Accounts with beneficiary designations pass outside of your will. A will is an important document to capture your wishes for the distribution of your assets upon your death. But when there’s an account with a designated beneficiary, the specific assets in that account are not dictated by the terms of the will. If you name “estate” as your beneficiary, the will (and ultimately a probate court) may dictate who receives your assets. Any financial instruments or accounts that have named beneficiaries avoid probate, or the process where a judge interprets the will.

Review your beneficiaries as life changes. Be sure you’re up-to-date with your beneficiary designations throughout different life events, like marriage, divorce, childbirth, adoption or the death of a planned beneficiary.

Resources affect government benefits

If loved ones with disabilities qualify for government benefits, any type of income or assets they receive can reduce or disqualify them from those benefits. This includes:

  • 401(k) assets
  • Life insurance payouts
  • Inheritance money
  • Child support
  • Trust funds (unless designated as Special Needs Trusts)
  • Other assets

These types of income and assets can be very helpful to individuals with disabilities, but they rarely completely replace the government benefits they will need throughout their lives. Before you designate a beneficiary who has a disability or special needs on any financial document, ask if he or she has a Special Needs Trust (SNT), or recommend that one be considered.

A special needs attorney can help you protect your beneficiary from the loss of government benefits by creating a special needs trust where the funds won’t interfere with state or federal eligibility requirements.

Action steps:

  • Check your current beneficiary designations and account ownership structures.
  • Be sure your will and other legal documents are up to date.
  • Find a special needs attorney, and prepare a special needs trust, where applicable.
  • Talk to a financial advisor to get started.

Learn more:

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Neither Voya Financial® or its affiliated companies or representatives offer legal or tax advice. Please seek the advice of a tax attorney or tax advisor prior to making a tax-related insurance/investment decision.

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Beneficiaries with disabilities or special needs

Special needs planning and divorce

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1 year 10 months
Submitted by smoses on Fri, 08/28/2020 - 14:39

Under the best circumstances, creating a financial plan involving a child with a disability or special needs can be challenging. When parents decide to divorce, it adds another dimension to the plan; however, with proper planning, the parents — along with trusted advisors — can create a plan that appropriately addresses the needs of the child now and in the future.

Ideally, the divorce will be collaborative with all parties working toward an agreement that is fair and addresses everyone’s concerns. Even in circumstances when the divorcing parents agree on items such as child support and custodial arrangements, care should be taken to document all of the issues. It is important to consult a team of experts that includes a special needs financial planner, both a special needs attorney and a domestic-relations attorney, as well as other experts who will be able to help plan for the future needs of the child or children.

There are several decisions that are typical in every divorce but need special attention when concerning a child who may not live independently in the future. We will discuss the watch-outs and areas that may require special consideration.

Custody and living arrangements

Will the child live primarily with one parent, or will they live equally with both parents? Depending on the child’s circumstances, a typical custodial arrangement may not be suitable. Both parents will need to agree on a visitation schedule that causes the least disruption for the child. For instance, the child may not be able to spend every weekend with the non-custodial parent, either because of environmental reasons, therapy appointments, or simply because they are not able to leave the stability and routine of a primary residence. These factors need to be taken into consideration, and some creativity may be necessary prior to entering into a custody agreement. In fact if both parents can agree, some will decide that the parents switch residences to share time, leaving the child in the custodial home full-time.

Decision makers

Another factor for divorcing parents to consider is who will be the primary decision maker. Will all decisions be shared? Think about medical, educational, religious, and recreational decisions. Will both parents participate in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings or will one parent take the lead? Once an agreement has been reached, be sure to notify and provide copies to the child’s medical and therapy teams, their school, aids and caretakers to notify all teams of the changed family situation and outlining who will continue to make decisions on behalf of the child. Once the child becomes an adult, a decision around powers of attorney or guardianship will also need to be formalized and shared.

Government benefits eligibility

Due to the cost of care for a child with a disability or special needs, it is important to work with professionals who have a background in special needs financial planning, estate planning and divorce to consider all future expenses and properly fund future needs. Items to consider may include medical equipment, special diets, care expenses, medical insurance co-payments, etc. Government benefits may help offset these costs for those individuals who qualify.

In order for a child to be eligible for needs-based government benefits such as Medicaid, either now or in the future, they must stay below the asset and income threshold. This is especially important in the case of a divorce, when the child may receive child support payments. In order to protect the child’s eligibility for government benefits, a first party special needs trust (SNT) may need to be created for the benefit of the child. Once established, the trust can receive the child support payments. The trust enables assets to be set aside without disqualifying the child from receiving government benefits.

An ABLE account also may be a useful savings vehicle that can complement the financial plans for many families. ABLE accounts offer families the ability to contribute and save for any qualified expenses related to a person’s disability on a tax-advantaged basis. Balances in an ABLE account up to $100,000 do not affect a person’s ability to qualify for needs-based government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Reaching the age of majority

Once a child reaches the age of majority (age 18 or 19, based on the state) he or she is considered a legal adult. If a child will not be able to make decisions on their own as an adult, guardianship or limited guardianship may be the answer. (This legal process should be started prior to the child’s reaching the age of majority.)

Another decision divorcing parents will face is determining which parent will be the primary guardian or whether they will share guardianship jointly. If guardianship is not required, a power of attorney might be necessary to help manage the individual’s affairs. The parent who does not have power of attorney or guardianship may face significant challenges when trying to get information from medical and service providers or making decisions regarding care. A potential alternative for some families could be joint or co-guardianship, if agreement can be reached.

Where possible, multigenerational successor trustees, agents or guardians should be named in order to help ensure the life care plan continues as envisioned after the death of the originally named parties. Naming successor trustees, agents or guardians might be just as important as naming the current decision makers.

Whether or not child support payments will continue after the child reaches the age of 18 should be decided in advance of divorce proceedings, to avoid being addressed in a court setting. Also take into account that future government benefits may be impacted by child support.

A milestone that occurs when the child reaches the age of majority is the ability to apply for government benefits. If child support payments have been structured to be paid to a SNT, and the child’s assets are below the threshold, the child may qualify for SSI and Medicaid benefits, even if they didn’t qualify prior to the age of majority when eligibility is based on the parents’ resources.

If the child is covered under one of the parent’s medical insurance, it is important to have an agreement to continue coverage. A dependent with a disability is typically eligible for the parent’s employer-sponsored medical insurance plan, as long as the parent is employed, but if the parent who carries this coverage retires or leaves employment, an agreement should be in place regarding who will pay the premiums for replacement medical insurance coverage. If medical coverage is obtained through a state health insurance program, these reimbursements may have an impact on premiums paid. Maintenance of this coverage should be written into the divorce and custodial agreements.

Another transition milestone is when the child finishes school. Will the child need caregiving or will they work? Will the work be part-time or full-time? Will the child want to live on their own in a group or residential setting? Do both parents agree on these milestones?


Financial planning can be one of the most challenging aspects of divorce, and with the added responsibility of a child with a disability, it may seem overwhelming. It is important for all parties to remember that the goal of the plan is to achieve the best outcome for the child with a disability or special needs, as well as for other children and family members.

In addition to divorce and custodial agreements, other legal documents should be addressed. An SNT for the benefit of the child, as well as guardianship of the child are mentioned earlier, and separate individuals can be named to fulfill the responsibilities of these agreements.

Trustees of a trust make decisions regarding investments and use of the funds, ensuring compliance with laws, tax codes, and the trust document itself. Guardians make decisions regarding the care of the individual with a disability or special needs, and financial decisions on anything not covered by a trust. Successor trustees and guardians are designated to take over these responsibilities should one die, become incapacitated or can no longer serve in the role.

If a special needs trust or ABLE account is established, parents should notify anyone who may be considering a gift or bequest to the individual with a disability or special needs. These transfers can be sent directly to the individual’s trust or ABLE account to avoid potential disruption in needs-based government benefits.

Estate planning

When life changes, plans need to be updated. If there is an existing estate plan for a family, there is a good chance that it needs to be significantly revised in the event of a divorce.

Anytime there’s a person with a disability or special needs included, titling and beneficiary designations are even more important because of the potential impact inheritance can have on government benefits eligibility.

Close attention needs to be paid to beneficiary designations, trusts, powers of attorney and wills to ensure that the most current wishes of each family member are captured in their estate documents.

Designations can be made irrevocable in many cases, which can give peace of mind that ex-spouses won’t undo careful planning decisions.

Blended families

Many divorced parents get remarried at some point, often creating additional complexities for dependents with disabilities and special needs. Routines and family dynamics can change anytime step parents and siblings are introduced into a family. Special care and extra communication can help ease the stress, but there are some legal and government benefits considerations that will need to be addressed as well.

Prenuptial agreements are recommended for any new marriages to spell out obligations for care of a child with special needs in case of future divorce. This includes stipulating how resources are to be used and what should happen if one of the spouses were to pass away.

When a deceased parent was receiving Social Security benefits, there are typically benefits available for ex-spouses, minor children, and dependents with disabilities. The prenuptial agreement should dictate which income benefits are to be used for the care of the child, and which are for the benefit of the ex-spouse. Overall, parents of children with disabilities and special needs should talk to an attorney about the rights that spouses have to inheritances in community property states and consider putting a property status agreement into place to ensure their child’s inheritance stays intact.

If a special needs trust hasn’t already been established, many attorneys will recommend that one is established prior to a new marriage. The trust can be a valuable tool to hold assets and income for a child with special needs and keep them separate from marital assets. The trust can have very specific instructions to ensure that needs and wishes are met, even when additional parties are involved in the family.

Finally, many stepparents choose to legally adopt children from their spouse’s previous marriage. In special needs situations, this decision may carry additional ramifications related to benefits eligibility and legal guardianship, so it’s important to work with a well-qualified attorney and explore all of the pros and cons.

Planning for a lifetime of care

A life care plan and letter of intent are important complements to a good financial and legal planning structure. Documenting all of the needs and wishes of the individual and caretakers for future caretakers and decision makers is critical to ensure continuity of care and vision for the future.

Communication is key

Ultimately, making sure that decisions are made with and communicated to all interested family members and professionals is paramount to avoiding disruption, confusion and disputes in the future. Once a plan is in place, save it somewhere safe and make sure to communicate where it is and how it can be accessed to ensure that the needs of children with disabilities and special needs will be well cared for in the future, no matter what.

Making sure the future of your child with special needs remains secure
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This information is provided by Voya Cares for your education only. Neither Voya nor its representatives offer tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax or legal advisor before making a tax-related investment/insurance decision.

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Special needs planning and divorce

Money basics: Get on the right track from day one

Member for

1 year 10 months
Submitted by smoses on Thu, 08/06/2020 - 15:15

Congrats! You’ve landed your first “real” job and are now earning a regular paycheck. After many years of studying and preparation, it’s time to put your feet up and ask others to fetch the coffee. You’ve probably already discovered it really doesn’t work that way! But while the executive boardroom could be a few years down the road, there are some money basics you can adopt now to make the most of your new income and help secure your financial future.

Budget, budget, budget

Can we say it again? Budget. Yes, it’s very tempting to just pay for rent, groceries and utilities, and then let the good times roll. But you’ll have more control over your money and be less prone to racking up debt if you set a budget and stick with it. It means prioritizing your expenses so you can make saving an automatic habit, like brushing your teeth. Think of regular savings as paying yourself! Tracking your income and expenses every month can also help stop you from racking up credit card debt and driving yourself down a financial dead end.

Picture yourself at 60

You probably don’t want to think about retirement at this point. But if you start saving toward it now, you could have a big chunk of change when that time eventually rolls around. The longer you save, the longer compound growth can work for you on building capital.

If your company offers a retirement plan like a 401(k), sign up today and contribute as much as your budget allows. If your employer offers matching contributions, consider saving enough to get the maximum match. This can help build your savings even faster. Also, contributing to a workplace retirement plan gives you some great tax advantages. Contributions lower your current taxable income, reducing what you owe to Uncle Sam.

If you don’t have a workplace plan, or want to save more than your plan’s limits, consider speaking with a financial professional to discuss whether an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is right for you. A Traditional IRA can give you an up-front tax deduction if you meet certain income qualifications, and a Roth IRA provides a source of tax-free income for qualified distributions in retirement. Think about cash value life insurance as a means to help protect your family’s financial future.

Do your homework

Retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs require you to make your own investment decisions. Income tax will be due when you withdraw money and if you withdraw before age 59½, there will also be an IRS 10% penalty tax unless an exception applies.

You’ll want to monitor your investments to make sure they keep performing over time. A little reading and research on the basics of investing can go a long way toward helping you make the right decisions.

Your first job is a big step to building the career and the life you want. Establishing good financial habits now will give you even more options later. You’ll thank yourself for it down the road.

Financial habits that’ll serve you well now and later
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Giving your children everything you envision

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1 year 10 months
Submitted by smoses on Thu, 08/06/2020 - 15:12

As a caregiver of someone with special needs, you know that giving them the care and support they deserve is a lifelong commitment. That’s why it makes sense to have a financial strategy in place now — so you can rest a bit easier knowing you’ve taken steps to help ensure your loved one will receive a lifetime of support and care.

Consider a special needs trust. One element of a good financial strategy is a special needs trust (SNT). It helps to ensure your loved one with special needs will not be financially dependent on a future caregiver or guardian. Also, assets held by the trust are not counted when determining your loved one’s eligibility for current and future government benefits. The SNT can be funded with proceeds from a life insurance policy, assets on hand, funds bequeathed through a will or financial rewards from a lawsuit.

Now’s the time to draft a will. While no one likes thinking about wills, they’re especially important for people with special needs. The will can name a Guardian for your loved one. Make your wishes clear!

Look into government benefits. Your child may qualify for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Every little bit can help, especially when your loved one is on his or her own. Visit (opens new window) to learn more.

Create a letter of intent. Although the letter of intent isn’t part of a financial strategy, it is an important part of your overall life care plan. A letter of intent is a regularly updated written document that provides details about your loved one’s personal, educational, medical and social life. The letter of intent includes everything a temporary or permanent potential caretaker will need to know.

Get the tax benefits you deserve now. From deductions for medical expenses to credits for care and education, there are numerous strategies you can benefit from today that could help you keep more of your money in your pocket.

Maybe your loved one with special needs lives with you, or they’re making their own way out in the world. In either case, special needs financial planning helps ensure your wishes and desires for your loved one are fulfilled — even after you’re gone.

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These materials are not intended to and cannot be used to avoid tax penalties and they were prepared to support the promotion or marketing of the matters addressed in this document. Each taxpayer should seek advice from an independent tax advisor.

This information is general in nature and not comprehensive, the applicable laws change frequently and the strategies suggested may not be suitable for everyone. Clients should seek advice from their tax and legal advisors regarding their individual situation.

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Giving your children everything you envision

Create a contract for family care

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1 year 10 months
Submitted by smoses on Thu, 08/06/2020 - 15:11

When the caregiver whom Amy Goyer, of Phoenix, hired for her 93-year-old father seemed particularly tired recently, Goyer realized she had been so busy she wasn’t aware her employee needed a vacation. As it happens, that caregiver is also her sister.

“A loved one who provides care can get burned out, too, just like any other caregiver,” says Goyer, who is also AARP’s family and caregiving expert. “We worked out ways for her to have paid time off.”

Goyer, age 56, and her sister, age 59, already had created and signed a simple caregiving agreement. And even though Goyer is “on the same page” as her sister, it’s still hard to get everything right. “It can get tricky,” says Goyer, who holds power of attorney for her father.

Family caregiver contracts, also called personal care agreements, range from informal, like Goyer’s, to complex professional contracts drawn up by lawyers. Families usually create them when one relative is handling most of the care for an elderly parent. A contract enables family members to spell out payment, a work schedule, and expected duties. Another benefit: members formalize the compensation for a relative who is making financial sacrifices in order to provide care. A family caregiver may have quit her job or cut back on hours. Adding to the financial hit, a 2016 AARP study found family caregivers spend about $7,000 a year on out-of-pocket costs relating to care.

A family caregiver may have quit her job or cut back on hours. Adding to the financial hit, a 2016 AARP study found family caregivers spend about $7,000 a year on out-of-pocket costs relating to care. And the contract may avoid future conflicts — assuaging any hard feelings, for instance, when a relative providing the bulk of care inherits a parent’s home. But, sometimes, drawing up a contract stirs up emotions tied to sibling rivalries and past disputes. Non-caregiving family members may resent paying a relative whom they see as living rent-free in a parent’s house. And families often don’t draw up contracts until a crisis arises. “Sometimes we have to call a mediator in,” says Springfield, Mass., lawyer Hyman Darling, president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

Drawing Up the Documents

If your family is considering a caregiving contract, there are ways to avoid some of the acrimonies. First, the relative who is the caregiver should explain to the family how much work he or she is doing and what kind of help is needed, says Amanda Hartrey, a family consultant with the Family Caregiver Alliance, a non-profit caregiver resource and advocacy organization.

Call a family meeting to discuss the contract. Set an agenda, and keep it narrowly focused. At the meeting, make the point that “this should be treated as a business meeting and not a therapy session,” Hartrey says.

Note a starting date in the contract, and specify a work and payment schedule, such as hourly or bi-weekly. Check with local home health care companies to set a fair pay rate. Caregivers also should be required to keep a daily, detailed journal documenting their hours and care provided, says Kerry Peck, a Chicago elder law attorney. That will help if any questions arise about the contract, particularly if a parent later files for Medicaid. Families need to have written proof the money they paid a relative was for caregiving duties, not a gift to spend down assets to qualify for Medicaid.

Set boundaries, as you would for any other paid caregiver, Goyer advises. If a parent has a non-smoking household, specify whether the rule applies to family caregivers. Designate responsibility for expenses, such as whose car will be used to take a parent to appointments, and who will pay for gas and parking. Work out issues such as paid time off and sick leave.

Include an escape clause, Goyer says. A caregiver might find the work too overwhelming if a parent’s health or mobility declines. Or a parent may go into a nursing home or assisted living. Goyer says that she and her sister like working together. But “we’re sisters,” she says. “We’re still going to quibble.”

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This material is provided for general and educational purposes only; it is not intended to provide legal or tax advice.  We recommend that you consult an independent legal or financial advisor for specific advice about your individual situation.

Source: Kiplinger

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Welcoming the birth of your child

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1 year 10 months
Submitted by smoses on Thu, 08/06/2020 - 15:05

The birth of a child is one of the most exciting times in life. The moment you lay eyes on your precious baby, you want to provide, protect and give him or her the best life you can. And when your child has special needs, this desire doesn’t change — it just requires a more strategic approach with additional challenges. To help you along the way, here are important planning steps to consider from the birth of your child up to age three.

Early Intervention

It’s never too early to start planning a lifetime of continuous care for your loved one, and the journey starts locally with your county’s Early Intervention services. These services are tailored around developing a personalized plan specific to your loved one’s physical or cognitive skill development. Early Intervention services may also offer guidance about the other services available in your area. All states provide early intervention, but each state does so differently. States also define developmental delay in different ways and provide different services for different health conditions. In some states a doctor or clinician can recommend early intervention. By building your level of understanding about Early Intervention services, you’ll be better prepared to identify your loved one’s needs as well as understand the financial implications of those needs.

Estate planning and special needs trust

Ensuring your loved one’s needs is a priority — even after you’re gone. Because of this priority, it’s important to consider future government programs and benefits in all of your planning efforts. Work to educate yourself on and use the right legal instruments, so you can protect your child’s future and ensure every possibility is open to your loved one. For instance, a special needs trust is one way you can leave your child assets through beneficiary designations without jeopardizing his or her eligibility for government benefits. Proper language in a will or special needs trust can protect eligibility for key means-tested government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid coverage. As you explore potential options, it’s best to work with specially trained financial professionals* for guidance and advice specific to your situation.

Looking into life insurance

Many parents use life insurance policies to help fund the needs of their child in the unfortunate event of their own deaths. Life insurance immediately creates a death benefit to offer the resources required to continue your child’s quality of life. The amount and type of insurance policy will depend upon the needs of your child and your vision for his or her future. For example, if your vision includes independent living, employment, and transportation, an insurance policy with a larger death benefit may be a more suitable solution. Again, a specially trained financial advisor can provide guidance and help you gain a greater peace of mind.

Other planning considerations from birth through age three

  • Include any other children or family members in your planning and make sure to communicate your plans to them.
  • Start thinking about successor caregiving and the potential need for a legal guardian in the future. At this point, you may not know your child’s full capabilities or whether he or she will need a guardian, but now is the ideal time to start forming a vision for potential caregivers.
  • Avoid opening any savings or investment accounts in your child’s name. It could affect his or her eligibility for Medicaid and SSI later down the road.

It’s never too early to begin planning a lifetime of continuous care for the ones you love. By starting early, you can potentially circumvent common planning pitfalls. And if you need guidance or assistance, our specially trained financial professionals are here to help lead the way.

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Transitioning into adulthood

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1 year 10 months
Submitted by smoses on Thu, 08/06/2020 - 15:02

When your child with special needs crosses into the age of majority — that is, becomes a legally recognized adult — it’s a major life transition. Some benefits and support systems he or she now receives may end, but new opportunities for maintaining or improving your adult child’s lifestyle may become available.

Consider a lifetime of needs

It’s impossible to know exactly what your child will encounter in his or her lifetime, but you can certainly make educated guesses and dream. As you create a vision for your child’s future, it’s best to plan ahead to ensure your child’s lifestyle will be the best it can be. Here are questions to ask yourself — ideally well before your child becomes a legal adult — but the process can be helpful at any age.

  1. Can your child make his or her own decisions — personal, financial and medical?
  2. How will your child’s medical prognosis change over time, and how will those changes affect his or her lifestyle, financial situation and ability to make decisions?
  3. Is your child capable of and interested in continuing his or her education after high school?
  4. Does your child receive government benefits or might there be a need to receive them in the future?
  5. Do you imagine your child employed? What dreams or goals might he or she have? Is there a need to supplement your child’s income?
  6. How do you envision your child’s living arrangements? Is independent living an option?
  7. What social and recreational activities interest your child now? What might those interests be in the future?
  8. What are your hopes for your child’s lifestyle and care when you are no longer able to provide assistance?


As you consider the questions above, you may be wondering what all of it will cost. If your child is high functioning, he or she may not need to rely heavily on your financial support. However, in some cases, it may fall to you to ensure lifelong expenses are covered. Having a discussion with a financial advisor is a great place to start to learn more about:

  • Social Security benefits your child may be eligible to receive.
  • How earning an income, accepting an inheritance or being a beneficiary to a retirement or life insurance benefit can affect your child’s eligibility for government benefits.
  • Policies and accounts, including employee benefits, which require a named beneficiary.
  • Family members or friends who may name your child in a will or as a beneficiary.

Taking time to create a plan now can help you avoid stress and hardship throughout your lifetime — and your child’s.


Depending on your child’s ability to make his or her own decisions, you may want to think about establishing a guardianship. This agreement allows the guardian to have decision-making authority and access to information (such as medical or financial records) for your child, once he or she has reached the legal age of adulthood, generally age 18. There are alternatives to guardianships, such as a power of attorney or advanced medical directives.


Evaluate your child’s current health and consider the long-term medical prognosis. When your child is a legally recognized adult, you’ll no longer have rights to his or her medical information, unless your child gives the medical provider or facility permission to share it (or you have already established a guardianship and are his or her guardian). Before it becomes an issue, consider completing medical directives, such as a living will, a health care proxy or a durable medical power of attorney (or, as previously mentioned, a guardianship).


Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) includes services to help him or her transition into adulthood, such as higher education and employment. Remember that educational opportunities for your child after high school are varied. If he or she is interested in college, many schools and community supports offer programs and services for students with special needs. Online studies may also be available, as well as smaller, specialized schools. If your child is interested in a trade, it’s a good idea to look into vocational or technical schools.


Look into community-based programs and job placement organizations to find companies that offer support to workers with special needs. Investigate employers who offer on-the-job training and programs, such as job coaching, specifically developed to help workers with special needs be more successful in the workplace. Before beginning a job search, review the Americans with Disabilities Act to fully understand your child’s employment rights.


There are many residential options to choose from depending on your child’s needs, self-sufficiency and budget. For example, your child may:

  • Continue to live with you.
  • Rent an apartment.
  • Move into an assisted living facility.
  • Share housing with other people.
  • Purchase his or her own home. You might need to make home modifications or add a private apartment to your home.

As you develop your financial plan, remember to consider additional living expenses, such as:

  • Parking or public transportation costs
  • Homeowner association fees
  • Home repairs
  • Insurance and taxes
  • Utility bills, food and laundry costs

Social life

After finishing school, socializing opportunities drop significantly for people who don’t make a conscious effort to participate in social activities outside their home. A lifestyle that includes social activities benefits physical and mental health and cultivates a network of friends, but it does take planning and resources. Think about how your loved one will travel to and from activities and consider expenses for travel, equipment, membership or participation fees, food and beverages, and other related costs.

Imagine a lifetime of needs met

Although legally considered an adult, your child will always be your child. And like most parents, there are no limits to what you will or will not do to protect his or her future. However, you don’t have to do it alone. By meeting with a financial advisor, you’ll be able to rest a bit easier knowing you’ve taken the steps today to secure a brighter tomorrow.

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