Jerry Hulick, CLU, ChFC, CLTC, leads the Special Care Planning Team for The Washington Group, one of the largest agencies in the country affiliated with Massachusetts Mutual Life (MassMutual). He and his eight special care planners operate out of a small office in Fairfax, Va. … The Special Care Planning Team is a genuine labor of love for Jerry — a second career he launched in 2005 after retiring as general agent of The Washington Group. Building the team represents a fusion of the personal and professional drivers in his life: to serve organized charities and to develop planners who can make a difference for their special-needs clientele.
Families who have members with special needs require very different financial and estate planning services from those offered to “mainstream” families. “The big issue is to make sure the planning does not inadvertently leave an asset to a person with special needs, because in doing so, you would disenfranchise that person from eligibility for government benefits,” Jerry says. “It’s very similar to eldercare planning, or Medicaid planning, except that you’re dealing with a lifelong situation.
“Special needs families are incredible people. They are dealing with so much. They’re very straightforward about what’s important and what’s not. And there’s a huge need for planning. One of every five families is connected to a person with special needs.”
Jerry has spoken to numerous agencies, inside and outside the MassMutual system, about the potential for special-needs planning as a source of new business. The first myth he dispels is that special-needs families have lower incomes and don’t have money to apply to their needs.
“Special needs crosses economic lines and cultural lines, and it crosses into businesses, even though the corporate world doesn’t understand it yet,” he says. “Special needs is not a market — it’s a dimension of any and every market.
“When I go speak to other agencies, I’ll say, ‘You tell me what market you want to be in, and you start your normal marketing. Meanwhile, I’ll lead with special needs, and I will get to your market before you do. While you’re banging on the front door, I’ll go in the side door, through the networking of special needs — the nonprofit organizations like The Arc (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens), the Down syndrome and autism groups, and Easter Seals.