October 17, 2011

Special Needs Clients Offer Special Challenges

Planner offers webinars, partnering to provide for unique needs

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Planners with clients who have special needs family members may sometimes feel overwhelmed by the complexities of providing for their future. Or they may make errors in provisions designed to protect a special needs client that can cost the family—and the planner, too—down the road.

What’s the answer? Perhaps a webinar or a partnership with Protected Tomorrows, the financial practice of Mary Anne Ehlert, who specializes in providing more than financial security to clients with special needs kin—those with autism, Down syndrome, or other disabilities, whether physical or developmental.

Ehlert, who has been working with special needs families in her practice for more than 25 years, says that such clients need help beyond the merely financial, which is complex enough when considering all the specialized regulations that govern eligibility for a variety of benefit programs. That can be more than many advisors want to take on.

She has also seen, she says, an increasing number of mistakes made by planners who don’t understand the multitude of regulations that govern the finances of the special needs individual. This can be expensive, both for the family and for the planner, too, as a liability issue if the family challenges the arrangements once the error is discovered. Since the special needs community is expanding rapidly—currently it makes up approximately 20% of the population—that means more and more people need specialized help in providing for their futures.

Ehlert, who has special needs family members, is very familiar with the unique requirements of such families and says it is her mission to help every family in need of such help. To that end, she has begun offering webinars and a partnering program that help advisors understand the questions they should ask clients, help them to manage business risks—those potentially costly errors they might make through ignorance—and even help them grow their practices, should they decide that this is a niche they want to serve. Those who are interested can find a webinar archived on the website.

The Web-based financial professional membership program provides information and tools that include quarterly webinars with CFP CE credit, and is designed to help advisors manage risks and build better relationships with existing clients who have special needs.

The program also helps new client relationships with special needs families. It is designed, according to Ehlert, for "financial planners, investment advisors, insurance providers, bank officers, CPAs, trust officers, real estate brokers or mortgage brokers who may not know much about the special needs community but are interested in deepening their client relationships, managing their business risks and growing their firm."

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