Creating a LifePLAN: Twelve Steps to Peace of Mind

When working to develop a LifePLAN together, Planned Lifetime Assistance of New Jersey (PLAN/NJ) helps parents identify the following essential items:

  • things they presently do for their child that are central to his/her well-being, such as helping with housing issues, purchasing clothing, celebrating birthdays, or a monthly lunch date
  • resources, such as state funded services, or government benefits that will meet their child’s crucial needs when they are no longer able to do so
  • which social services will satisfy unmet needs identified in the LifePLAN
  • who will oversee the individuals care and support needs and the roles each person will play in his/her life

Our expertise in working with people with a variety of disabilities, and with the social service and the legal and financial systems that support them, makes us uniquely qualified to help families effectively plan for the future.

Creating a LifePLAN will ensure that your family members are well taken care of, and their wishes accounted for, now and in the future. These steps can provide the peace of mind you may not have realized you were missing during the care and support of your loved one living with a disability.

  1. Build a circle of concerned friends, family and staff to participate in the planning process. If possible, your loved one with the disability should be the center and the manager of the circle.
  2. Prepare a LifePLAN that addresses the issues of housing, work, social, medical care, religion, and end-of-life care. It should be comprehensive but flexible.
  3. Write a Letter of Intent. This is the family’s opportunity to express, in your own words, your hopes and desires for the future of your loved one.
  4. Decide on a guardian, power of attorney, conservator, or advocate, and discuss your decision with that individual(s). This person will carry out the wishes expressed in the Letter of Intent. You should also designate a successor guardian/conservator/advocate at this time.
  5. Determine the realistic costs of the plan, taking into account housing, medical, transportation and recreation costs, the cost of hiring a private advocate/guardian, etc.
  6. Determine the financial resources that will be available, from government benefits to investments, insurance, and real estate that will insure adequate funds for the person’s expected lifetime. Seek the assistance of a qualified accountant and/or financial planner, if necessary. Keep in mind that the State of New Jersey now requires “individuals with disabilities to contribute to the cost of their care in state-subsidized residential placements, such as group homes and supervised apartments.” These contributions usually come from the individual’s benefits.
  7. Prepare a carefully worded Last Will and Testament. Use a lawyer who is well versed in disability and Medicaid law.
  8. If you did not create a Special Needs Trust in your Will, do so now. Again, use a lawyer who is well versed in disability and Medicaid law or contact PLAN/NJ about the PLAN/NJ Community Trust.
  9. Choose a trustee(s) and successor trustee(s) to manage the Trust.
  10. Place all estate planning documents, including the LifePLAN, Letter of Intent, legal documents, birth certificates, medical records, deeds, stock certificates, insurance policies, etc. in one safe place. Distribute copies of appropriate documents to those who will be directly involved in implementing the plan.
  11. Bring the circle together to review the total plan. Tell them where the estate planning documents are stored.
  12. Review the plan annually.

Contact us for more information at 908-575-8300.