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Special Needs Children Need Lifelong Financial Planning

June 20, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Over the course of a lifetime, it can cost more than $3 million to care for a person with autism, according to a study published by Harvard University. So when it comes to mapping out plans for a child's future, experts say, the sooner the better.

Lynn Tramontano, a financial professional with Prudential in Columbus, helps families plan for their loved ones' futures. She says parents need to consider their assets, goals and feelings about what they want for their child when they are gone.

"As parents, we always want to take care of our children the best we can and provide them a quality of life, and so the planning, the core important part of the planning, includes that factor of providing quality of life for their child."

When a parent passes away, Tramontano says, there are complicated issues involved in the transfer of assets. She says as they plan for the future, an attorney or financial adviser can talk parents through their options, such as a Special Needs Trust, and advise them of state and federal programs that provide assistance.

Many individuals with disabilities qualify for government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. And Tramontano says factoring those into the transfer of assets can be tricky.

"Their child cannot have assets more than $2,000 in order to qualify for SSI, and likewise the child with a disability cannot have more than $1,500 and stay eligible for any Medicaid services."

Tramontano says her most important message for parents is to not wait to think about the future.

"You don't want to delay these plans. You don't want this to be something that's put on the back burner, because we just never know when these issues will hit our family. So, the urgency is very real."

According to the Autism Society of Ohio, more than one child in 110 has an autism spectrum disorder.

The Harvard study is at www.hsph.harvard.edu.

For help finding a financial professional, contact the Autism Society of Ohio at www.autismohio.org

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH