By L. Mark Russell and Arnold E. Grant
Reviewed by Gary W. Silverman, CFP®
This book is rather heavy. It's 642 pages. To say the least (and I seldom do), Planning for the Future is not a quick read. It's not supposed to be.
The subtitle says, Providing a Meaningful Life for a Child with a Disability After Your Death. Think of the breadth and depth of the topic. Consider every issue, consequence, and crossroad that a person transits during their life. Now try to come up with a framework years and probably decades in advance that will provide your child a "meaningful" life. If anything, a 600-plus page book is just an introduction. Consider it a checklist with explanations on the thought process one needs to go through in planning for that meaningful life.
As such, Planning for the Future does not replace the need for an attorney or other advisors. In fact, the introductory chapter states that the book "…is intended to be a guide for parents in dealing with their advisors through the comprehensive estate-planning process, and an aid to help professionals understand all the planning issues faced by families that have a child with a disability." Throughout the book the authors continue to recommend help from many professional disciplines.
This is the book's fifth edition, so Russell and Grant have had time to tweak it and ensure it keeps up with changes in law and culture…and it shows. I found their guidance correct in the areas in which I have experience and quite reasonable in those I do not. Planning for the Future is well written and an easy read. You won't need a legal lexicon sitting next to your reading chair.
Chapter one begins to lay out the breadth of the planning to be considered. This ranges from housing, to education, employment, and even social activities. Chapter two continues on this theme by introducing the concept of a letter of intent. This document communicates a family's ideas and knowledge of the disabled child to future caregivers and decision makers. It is similar to a letter to an executor and as such can prove to be one of the most valuable parts of their estate planning. The authors are very thorough, creating a document that can go a long way to ensuring a quality life for the child. Because of its importance, a free, downloadable PDF version of this form is available at http://www.specialneedslegalplanning.com. Warning: this is a Web site full of "buy this book now" propaganda, and you'll have to give them your e-mail address, but if you can't trust a lawyer, who can you trust?
Other chapters cover advocacy and guardianships, government benefits, determining financial needs, and a wide range of estate planning issues including wills, special need trusts, powers of attorney, and taxation.
The only chapter I found truly disappointing was a slim one that dealt with financial planning. Its coverage of investments and insurance was so superficial to be almost useless. But hey, I guess that's what we're for.
Gary W. Silverman, CFP®, owns a fee-only financial planning firm in Wichita Falls, Texas. He is the host of the television show Falls Informer, editor of the financial newsletter Personal Money Planning, and a frequent contributor to the print and broadcast media. Gary also teaches university courses in finance and management.
Planning for the Future Inc.