Financial well-being and disability: How CPAs can help

Financial planning for families who have a loved one with a disability is different. Planning needs to be inclusive, sensitive, appropriate, certain and long-term. Learn more about what’s involved.

Too often, families and their advisors dive into the details of financial planning for disability before looking at life needs and their actual costs. What are your loved one’s expectations for their quality of life?  Where will the person live and is it affordable based on how your personal finances and estate planning are now? Where should they live based on their cognitive and physical challenges? What are your expectations in terms of their community involvement for the best quality of life possible?

These are difficult questions and will take a full family effort and solid professional advice to work through. Don’t hesitate to include grandparents and other family who may want to contribute.

HOUSING: APPROPRIATE AND AFFORDABLE

Housing can be a significant cost of disability. Fortunately, the trend these days is for more independent living and social programs that can help mitigate some of the financial pressures you might be dealing with.

Some families may be able to provide a home or shared living accommodation for their loved one if their finances are properly organized. Some provinces and territories provide financial support to fund caregivers/personal support workers to provide support at home, helping a loved one stay in their home longer.

To help, the Registered Disability Savings Plan, Henson trusts, Qualified Disability trusts and other techniques come to mind. If disability challenges are more complex, assisted housing may be the only choice. In either case, families should look for solutions that are affordable and maximize lifestyle opportunities for their loved one.

OTHER PLANNING ISSUES FOR DISABILITY

There are so many aspects to consider in planning for disability, including the following:

  • competency aspects with appropriate structuring to avoid legal challenges   
  • financial caregiver selection now and for the future
  • use of trusts to hold property if legal competence is an issue
  • maximizing social assistance through appropriate techniques
  • utilizing community resources to improve quality of life
  • having a plan to maximize tax credits, benefits and disability pensions
  • structuring wills, power of attorney, and estate plans that are effective long into the future

Planning for disability goes into many areas. Fortunately, banks, lawyers, accountants, money managers and social service agencies are seeing the need for this and are starting to offer boutique services in this area.

LEGAL ISSUES ADD COMPLEXITY

If your loved one does not have the capacity to make binding legal decisions, this can be a problem. For example, owning property is usually not desirable or even possible. Additionally, certain income tax elections may not be allowed, and inheritances may need to be structured using trusts.

If legal capacity or even vulnerability is an issue, be sure to get legal advice in conjunction with support from a financial advisor.

KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING

As your family grapples with long-term financial planning for your loved one, ask yourself: Am I comfortable with how things currently stand? Post a comment below.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Ed Arbuckle, CPA, FCPA, TEP

Ed Arbuckle FCPA, CPA, TEP writes and speaks regularly about disability and personal finances. He recently authored The Family Guide to Disability and Personal Finances. He can be reached through his website www.thefamilyguide.ca. He is a regular contributor to the MoneySaver magazine.