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Sheryl Frishman
BY Sheryl Frishman
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The Top 10 Items to Have In A Letter of Intent

The Letter of Intent is the most important document that you can prepare in the estate planning process because it will help the people that will be caring for your child interpret your hopes and desires for your child.  This is not a document that is prepared by an attorney nor is it a formal legal document.  However, it will be heavily relied on by the person(s) caring for your child.

By compiling as much information about your child and his needs and your desires you will be giving future care providers the knowledge and insight they will need to  provide the best possible care – they will not have to waste precious time learning how to manage and care for your child.

This is not an easy letter to write it is very emotional and difficult.  However, all parents must go through this very difficult step to ensure a well planned future for their special needs child.  Once you write the letter, sign and date it.  Each year, you take it out and add to it (or revise it if it is on the computer) and sign and date the changes.

The letter can be addressed to anyone you wish – for example “To Whom it May Concern”, “To my Guardian(s), Trustee(s) and Executor”.

The letter should address the following ten points (at least):

1. Family History

Where and when you were born, raised, married, something special about siblings, grandparents, and other relatives, special friends, description of your child’s birth, when, where, your feelings, etc.

2. General Overview

A brief overview of your child’s life to date and your general feelings about the future.

3. Education

Summary of educational experiences and desires for future education; regular classes, special classes, special schools, related services, mainstreaming, extra curricular activities and recreation; types of educational emphasis, i.e., vocational, academic, total communication, etc.; name of specific programs, school, teachers, related services providers.

4. Employment

Types of work your child may enjoy; open employment with supervision, sheltered workshop, activity center, etc.; companies that you are aware of that may be of interest to your child and provide employment in the community.

5. Residential Environment

To live with relatives or friends or other – specify; if not these people or these people pass away, your other options, i.e., group home in the same community – specify size; describe the best living arrangement – single room, etc.

6. Social Environment

Mention type of social activities your child enjoys, i.e. sports, dances, movies, etc.; should they have spending money and how they should spend it; favorite foods and eating habits; does your child take and/or enjoy vacations.

7. Religious Environment

Specify religion; local place of worship your family attends; local clergy that may be familiar with your family; has there been religious education and is this an interest to your child.

8. Medical Care

Current doctors, therapists, clinics, hospitals etc. and how frequently your child attends and for what purpose; current medications, how given, for what purpose; describe medications that have not worked in the past.

9. Behavior Management

Describe current behavior management program that is being used; other behavior management programs that have not worked.

10. Final Arrangements

Desires for your child’s funeral arrangements – including – prearrangements you have made (if any), choice of funeral home, burial, cemetery, monument, religious service and clergy.

You can also include any other information you feel will help the person(s) caring for your child provide the best possible care.  This letter should be placed with all of your other relevant legal and personal documents concerning your child.  Do not forget to sign and date the letter.

Sheryl Frishman

Written on April 3, 2013 by:

Sheryl Frishman is of Counsel to the law firm of Barger & Gaines.  and has worked almost exclusively with people with disabilities and their families for over 18 years. She is an expert in the areas of special education, disability and special needs law, and is a sought after speaker for professional and family organizations. In addition to Sheryl’s legal work, she is a zealous advocate for the needs, acceptance, and integration of people with disabilities in the community. Sheryl is involved and active in many organizations in the disability community including taking leadership roles in many of them. This includes being a current board member of The Arc of the USA, the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Sheryl has been the recipient of many award and honors for her work in the special needs community. Her eldest son, Aaron, has Autism, and is her inspiration.
  • Kerri Ames

    This is such a difficult thing to think about, let alone undertake. Thanks for giving us a guide.

  • Lois

    When I wrote my son’s “Letter of Awareness”, it was several pages in length. These letters are written according to the child’s LOC. The main thing is to include all facets of your child’s day to day routine; from the time he wakes in the a.m. until he goes to bed at night especially if his LOC is very involved.
    I am happy that you mentioned up-dating and getting the “Letter” to the right people. In my case, I literallly build an advocacy group for my son; within that group was a “Core”. The “Core” consisted of his sister (his guardian), a co-guardian, his primary care physician. dentist, and all other medical specialist, along with the staff at the pharmacy where his medicine was purchased. Our financial planner, accountant, and attorney. One other thing is very important: Advanced Directives. The entire advocacy group knew of the directives and who had copies besides his sister, co-guardian, PCP and our attorney.
    It is a task that goes on and on. So those who have not begun-please do so..

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