Understanding A Letter of Intent

Fall is around the corner and we’re all trying to soak in the last few days of extra sunshine, before life slows down a bit. Or at least that’s how I tend to think about fall, but in truth it seems that this is when things speed up as we try to cross-off as many items from our to-do list before the mad rush of the holidays.

What’s next to cross off on your list? A Letter of Intent. The words themselves are a mouthful to say, but taking the time to craft one correctly can prevent a disruption to your child’s care and make transitions easier.

In that same vein, I’m happy to tell you that you’ve probably done a lot oMom with two sons, one with a disability.f the leg work for this task. Earlier this summer, we asked you to work with your child to develop a vision for their future. We also asked you to review IEP and Transition Plans to ensure that resources and goals aligned with that vision. This information will be included in the Memorandum of Intent.

In short, a Letter of Intent is a document that provides information and guidance to those who will settle your estate and take over your child’s care. The Letter of Intent is not legally binding and, when directions conflict, those in wills, trusts and other legal documents take precedence.

Before I dig in deeper, let me say that there are several forms that you can use to build and populate this information. I highly recommend using this form from MassMutual, which is well structured and organized. The Arc’s Center for Future Planning is another online resource families can use. However, keep in mind that no one “form” will work for everyone, but any good form will include the following items:

Let’s break each one out. A good family narrative is one that if I were to read it, I would have a sense of your child as a human being and generally know what needed to be done and who to ask for help. Take some time to describe your family, describe your child with special needs (personality, abilities, likes and dislikes, friends and other important people in their life, etc.), what you want for your child’s future (level of independence, job, home, social life, etc.), a week in the life of your child, and who to contact in case of an emergency.

The Letter of Intent Summary is the second part which outlines your plans and arrangements. Ideally, the summary allows someone to take over with little notice managing your child’s needs and supports, identifying what needs to be done and how soon. In general, include key people, personal information, medical information, government benefits, disability services providers, private residence, your legal arrangements, financial information for you and your child.

The last part is a file folder or binder with copies of your documents supporting the arrangements and information you listed in the Summary. Most families that I speak have copies of life insurance policies, wills, trust arrangements, banking information, and benefit determination letter to name a few. Less apparent is the need to have documentation of your child’s disability, including the date or year of diagnosis.

And there you go–you now have a Letter of Intent and can cross this off your list! In truth, though, sitting down and putting a lifetime’s worth of information about your child on paper will take time. But just think how invaluable this information will be to your child’s future caregivers.

To help you, download this checklist on Creating a Life Plan for your child that includes a summary of what to include in your Letter of Intent. This is a great way to assess what areas you need to address.

Also, you probably know the routine by now, but it’s always worth reminding: review and update this document at least once a year or whenever there is a significant life event. Each time you review it, include your child in the conversation as appropriate and give copies to those who will be involved in managing your child’s care, or members of their Circles of Support.

We’ll be talking about Letters of Intent and the legal and financial tools to help you plan at our What’s Next? 2.0 Workshop on October 28th! The event is free, but space is limited. Reserve your spot and we’ll walk you through the last four steps to help you create a solid life plan.