Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
I was contacted and received a copy of All the Bunnies to review. This is a collection of stories from The Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP), sharing their personal insights from families they have represented over the years.
"The Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP) is the premier association for attorneys providing planning services to people with special needs and their families. The largest membership organization focused solely on special needs planners, ASNP consists of more than 200 expert member attorneys."
Established in 2006 to help special needs attorneys improve their practices through involvement in a community of their peers, ASNP also maintains comprehensive and up-to-date information on its website for anyone interested in learning more about special needs planning.
There are thirteen stories within forty pages in All the Bunnies. Each personal story is one to four pages long with a photograph of the member Attorney plus a quote alongside their page. The Attorneys represent experience in Elder Law, disability advocacy, estate planning, probate, Medicaid, asset protection, guardianship and estate administration. Some of these Attorneys have a family member with a disability as well.
Some of these article titles include:
Finding a New Home for Allen
Expect the Best, but Plan for the Worst
The Special Sister
Was Voodoo the Cause?
The Memorandum of Intent: An Indispensable Document
Families of Autistic Adults Create a "Special" Club
A Family of One
Medicaid Waivers: Empowerinng or Imprisoning? The Right to Move Between States
How to Fix a Broken Estate Plan for a Child with a Disability
A sampling of the quotes:
Special needs planning is really an opportunity to live in service to others.
Sooner or later, most Special Siblings take on the responsibility of guardianship.
If there is no plan... in such circumstances don't give up.
Will they see through all his behaviors to the human being underneath who needs their love and care?
Much of the trouble could have been avoided with a Memorandum of Intent
The Memorandum of Intent is not legally binding, but an informal document that sets guidelines for care. This story/chapter included a page describing areas covered in a Memorandum of Intent plus another page that listed ten points to keep in mind when preparing the Memorandum of Intent.
I recently learned at a Conservatorship presentation to parents of children with special needs within Los Angeles Unified School District, that the State of California utilizes this term and other states call it Guardianship. California Attorneys will often come across different documents from those families moving into the State since they come here specifically for services.
There is no glossary of terms with explanations in All the Bunnies, which would have been appreciated. There was mention of "a trust reformation", plus the terms I mentioned earlier. There are forms covered like "Petition for Placement" with no examples of what these consist of. I also would have liked to see an example of a plan for a family to get an idea of what is included. It is not disclosed in the personal stories from the Attorney Members the price range of the services that they provided to the families they wrote about.
As the single parent to two teens on the autism spectrum who receive government benefits and health insurance, as well as being the home health care worker for my younger son, I could not really relate to a family being recommended a "second to die life insurance policy" of two million dollars, as outlined in the story, Mr. & Mrs. J. - Multi-Generational Special Needs Planning.
These were parents to five-year-old and two-year-old boys with the youngest having severe disabilities and dependent on parents and caregivers. The grandparents attended meeting with the Attorney. I did not like the tone of this story or the fact that the parents only wanted to provide for the disabled child.
" Ever since James was born, Mr. and Mrs. J. have not had a moment to themselves... They explained that Michael is very bright and will get a good education, so they foresee leaving him little or nothnig of the estate because of the profound needs of his brother."
The first story is about a sister who is institutionalized, another story is elderly parents caring for their adult son, other stories share about Leukemia, cancer, down syndrome, parkinson's disease, autism and apraxia. Families obtain case managers, get special needs trusts and discuss special needs righs, probate, Medicaid and self-determination.
I have an adult sister who is disabled in her mid forties living in New Jersey. Since there has been no contact with my Mother for the past nine years I heard through my Brother after my Father passed away three years ago that the next step for my sister is a group home. There are services here in California that would benefit my Sister, so I was drawn to the story about moving between States. I know at this point my older son will not want to care for his sibling plus the cost of special needs trusts is beyond our means - so basically we cannot do anything beyond the life insurance plans I have in place until I know of someone to name as a guardian to make a will.
There are a lot of gaps for families with a child or adult with special needs or a disability. Besides the daily living we need a plan for the future, basically what All the Bunnies is about through sharing of families from the contributing Atttorneys. All the Bunnies is a good example of some issues that arise for families so that we can gain further insights into these plans, trusts and learn the legal terminology needed to get the ball rolling for our families.
All The Bunnies is available on amazon.