The number of special needs trusts set up by caregivers has grown by 21%, nearly double number recorded in 2005, a new report concludes.

The MetLife Center for Special Needs Planning, New York, reported this finding in an online survey carried out jointly with the GfK Custom Research North America. A total of 1,004 individuals participated in the poll, which was conducted from May to June 2011.

MetLife building

But whereas seven in ten caregivers say that they have completed at least one financially related task, many have yet to address crucial gaps in special needs planning.

For example, less than half (49%) of caregivers have identified a guardian for their dependent should they no longer be able to care for them. More than half (56%) say they are unfamiliar with the steps needed to identify a trustee to watch over their dependent’s financial holdings in the future.

And 55% of respondents aren’t sure how to set-up a plan for lifetime financial assistance for their dependent.

Caregivers are also less likely to use a single source for financial information than they are for medical or educational information. This finding, the report notes, may point to dissatisfaction with the information available for planning, and the need to go to several places before finding solid assistance.

Additionally, more than half (59%) of caregivers say there is too little information available about financial assistance (benefits and support provided by government agencies). And 55% say that such information is very difficult to find.

Only about one-third of families say they receive a support service, and, although they may not qualify, many caregivers do not know why they don’t receive a service. At the same time, 69% say they are very concerned about being able to provide lifetime care for their dependents with special needs.

On the positive side of the ledger, 38% of caregivers say have written a will, compared to 32% in 2005. And 36% plan for their dependent’s future housing, up from 31%.