While creating a financial plan and establishing a specialized trust are central to preparing for your child’s future, special needs planners also advise families to write down their intentions and expectations in a Memorandum of Intent. This document can be used to describe your child’s health care and therapeutic needs, identify lifestyle preferences and provide contact information for doctors, therapists, and teachers. It can also be used to convey insight into your child’s personality and history that future caregivers might not easily gain on their own.

The Memorandum is not legally binding and, when directions conflict, those in Wills, Trusts, and other legal documents take precedence. But for non-legal matters, this Memorandum can serve as the primary source of information about your child, providing a roadmap for the courts, guardians, caregivers and others involved in your child’s life.

While the scope and nature of information will vary from one family to another, certain details should be included in any Memorandum. The Memorandum should: (1) identify individuals and organizations that should be contacted upon the parents’ death or incapacity; (2) provide the child’s name and date of birth; (3) list doctors, therapists, schools, and extracurricular programs; (4) detail medical and therapeutic treatments; and (5) explain preferences regarding education, religion, and childrearing practices.

While writing a Memorandum of Intent can be time consuming and emotional, it is very important not to postpone this task. Without such a document, future caregivers will lack a comprehensive, thoughtful record of your child’s history, needs, hopes and dreams. If possible, try to include your child in the process of creating the document so it truly reflects his or her perspective.

Once the Memorandum is complete, place the original in a secure location and distribute copies to others involved in your child’s life. Remember to set aside time to revise the Memorandum at least once a year so it will continue to reflect your child’s current life stage and situation.