Planning for families who have children with special needs is getting some much-deserved attention lately.

I can promise you there are more families in this situation than you think, and also that there are not nearly enough producers with any experience in dealing with the special circumstances involved in these cases to handle the demand. These are families who really need the help of a qualified advisor to navigate the maze of government programs and specific estate planning strategies without inadvertently making mistakes that can easily jeopardize valuable benefits.

Last November, it was announced that The American College has partnered with MassMutual to develop a professional designation — Chartered Special Needs Consultant (CSNC) — aimed at financial professionals who serve families with children with special needs. The program requires candidates to complete three academic classes and pass exams covering topics such as the role of special needs trusts, taxation issues, wills, powers-of-attorney and guardianships.

MassMutual was also the sponsor of a new television program, “Autism: Coming of Age,” an hour-long documentary produced by Catherine Sager to help draw attention to the need for special-needs planning. The documentary premiered recently on WGBY, a public television station in MassMutual’s hometown of Springfield, Mass. It became available to all public television stations April 1.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — making it much more prevalent than the old standard “5 of every 10,000″ statistic.

Parents of children with special needs are typically faced with the responsibility of making sure their children are provided for after the parents have passed away, which means special planning is necessary. In the April issue of Life Insurance Selling, we have included a feature by Joseph A. Ferrazza, a producer who specializes in part in working with families that have children with special needs. The article, Smart planning steps for families with special-needs children, covers how advisors can help parents overcome savings challenges and avoid potential mistakes that could jeopardize eligibility for government benefits.

I hope you’ll give it a read at the link above or in the hard copy of the April issue and give serious consideration to adding this important planning niche to your practice.

To read more from Brian Anderson, click here.

For more on special needs planning, see:

The plus side of special-needs planning