Special Needs

Should I leave a Co-op or Condo to a Person with Special Needs?

Why is real estate often overlooked in special needs planning?

Special needs planning is difficult. Now add the idea of when, where, how, and with whom a dependent resides. Some of the obstacles to a housing plan are the cost of a condo or co-op, location, timing, ownership, and whether to include other families in addition to the uncertainty of when a dependent is ready to move.

Who to have the housing conversation with?

At Stuart Flaum Advisors, we have conversations and arrive at solutions with families regarding housing and apartment ownership. Thank you, Ronda Kaysen, ESQ for your recent insightful comments in the NY Times Real Estate Section. Apartment ownership is very important in special needs planning. We agree with your assessment. We recommend families arrive at the same conclusion regarding co-op and condo ownership for people with special needs.

This is a real example of an apartment purchase for a person with special needs:

Q: My spouse and I purchased a studio apartment in a New York City co-op for our adult son, who has special needs and is able to live independently with the support of an agency. We recently asked the co-op board to allow us to transfer the property to an irrevocable trust so that when we die he will still have a place to live. The board denied our request. Now we are in a quandary. Our son cannot inherit property directly or he will no longer be able to receive the government benefits that support him. How do we manage this situation?

A: Parents can leave a co-op apartment to their children in their will or in trust — but that doesn’t mean their heirs will necessarily end up with the right to own or live in that apartment.

In most cases, a co-op board has enormous latitude to approve or deny the transfer of the shares and the proprietary lease. “And if they deny it, the apartment gets sold and the children get the equity,” said Mindy Stern, a partner in the Manhattan law firm SSRG who specializes in real estate, trusts, and estates. “Just because the will says ‘I’m leaving it to my kids,’ that doesn’t give them the absolute right to acquire the shares or live there.”

In some cases, the proprietary lease says that a board won’t unreasonably withhold consent to transfer the apartment to a financially responsible family member, “but few if any extend that concept to include trusts,” Ms. Stern said.

You could wait to have the situation resolved after your death, leaving clear directives to the executor of your estate about what to do should the board reject a request to transfer the property into a trust for your son. But that leaves everyone in a precarious position, with years of uncertainty ahead.

As an alternative, you could sell the co-op now, put the proceeds in a special-needs trust and buy a condo through that trust, moving your son at that point. Unlike co-ops, condos generally allow transfers within estate planning, without requiring approval. Although this course would involve significant upheaval, you’d have more peace of mind. Before you buy the condo, though, make sure an estate and trust attorney reviews the building’s rules on transferring the unit.

Should I leave a Co-op or Condo to a Person with Special Needs? Read More »

A Parent’s Guide to Special Needs Planning Resolutions

Are you reviewing your family special needs planning in 2022 ?

Special needs planning is not the same for all families in today’s world. There are many more choices for people with disabilities and their loved ones. The choices one makes will lead to different outcomes. Below are some questions to guide your family discussion about special needs planning.

Who is the planning for?
  • Is the planning for yourself, i.e, the parent?
  • Are you planning for an individual with a disability?
  • Is the individual with a disability involved in the decision making?
  • Are you planning for the siblings of the person with a disability?
  • Are you planning with or for your aging parents?
  • Are you planning to coordinate your plan with your dependent’s plan and siblings?
When do you want to implement the special needs plan?
  • Not ready now?
  • Now?
  • In the near future?
  • In the far future?
  • When you are no longer able to provide support and care for your son or daughter?
  • Never?
What are you planning for?
  • Self Determination?
  • A meaningful life in the community?
  • Group home?
  • Home ownership?
  • State and federal benefits?
  • Education?

A Parent’s Guide to Special Needs Planning Resolutions Read More »

attending special needs planning workshop

Are Special Needs Planning workshops helpful?

Do you leave a workshop feeling more confused? Have you ever left a Special Needs Planning workshop feeling lost and searching for answers? I know I have. Here are a few idea for a more meaningful experience…

  • A workshop is a presentation for all audiences.
  • Is the workshop about the person with a disability?
  • Use your online time wisely.

1) A Workshop is a presentation

Generally, a presenter is not familiar with your family. The workshop is academic and not relevant to your interests.

2) Is the workshop about the person with a disability?

The focus of a special needs planning workshop is the person with a disability. Too often, the presentation is about caregiver and parent roles.

3) Use your online time wisely.

Covid has enabled people to participate in more presentations than prior to the pandemic. Too much information leads to confusion. Pick and choose which workshops are worth your time.

Are Special Needs Planning workshops helpful? Read More »

Special needs planning COVID 19

COVID 19 Special Needs Financial Planning

This blog entry serves to highlight special needs financial planning (SNFP) reactions to COVID 19. Some challenges are unique to families where an individual has an intellectual and/or developmental disability.

The goal of the Stuart Flaum Planning Team has always been to focus on special needs financial planning. We help people find financial opportunities. These opportunities usually consist of family resources, as well as government benefits. The goal is to help people with ADD, ADHD, and IDD (including people with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and intellectual disability) live happy, meaningful and secure lives in the community.

COVID 19 Uncertainty and Special Needs Planning

As a result of COVID 19, many uncertainties have emerged among the families we work with. Some, but not all of the uncertainties are:

1) How will the COVID 19 pandemic, in addition to federal and state deficits, affect medicaid waivers for people with IDD?

2) How will the COVID 19 pandemic affect the ability of IDD state agencies to be reliable and trustworthy resources?


3) How will COVID 19 change the resources of families, as well as their ability to plan for the now and for the future?

The Stuart Flaum Planning Team has seen an increase in the willingness of families, including their dependents, siblings, and grandparents, to engage in much more meaningful planning conversations. Many families recognize that the financial disturbance and the closure of state agencies during the pandemic requires them to take personal responsibility. If you find yourself in that situation, act now. Start a plan now; review or revise your special needs financial plan.

Contact the Stuart Flaum Planning Team and learn how we facilitate financial and legal planning using self determination, self direction, government benefits, housing and unique financial security strategies. Experience our unique and effective special needs financial planning strategy, since 2008.

COVID 19 Special Needs Financial Planning Read More »

New OPWDD Website

The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities in NY launched their new website last week. I could not have been more excited over the redesign. The design is easy on the eyes. However, the launch of the new OPWDD website is more than a redesign.


The site is similar to the feel and look of other NY State agencies. Though in itself not a bad approach; nor is it inspiring or warm. Ah , and that’s the point. OPWDD is not meant to be your ” rich uncle “. There is no moral obligation.

OPWDD is a staggering 8 BILLION DOLLAR state agency in New York. OPWDD is an agency whose authority and funding is Medicaid, which is an arrangement and obligation between federal, state ( Department of Health ) and local government. 

In addition, easy to locate from the home page is data that drives OPWDD’s decisions. This is different than the way OPWDD informed parents and caregivers over the past years. Much of the data over the years was not available, and when available shared in live forums, almost anecdotally. 

Why is OPWDD sharing data with us? In my opinion, it is to inform us as to the reasons that they will be making decisions that will limit supports and services. That is for another discussion. Parents and caregivers, be resourceful and think outside the box.

I would like to bring attention to the section on housing, to be more specific, types of housing. It is clear to me that the future for housing is through family resources and development  of non certified living arrangements with OPWDD housing subsidies ( self direction and ISS ) for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

This has been the trend for several years…parents and caregivers must address this planning NOW with their financial planners.


In short, the OPWDD website redesign is well done. It successfully 1) lets parents and caregivers see the data that drives the new decisions and 2) presents an overview of OPWDD programs and 3) redirects decision making to  rules governing the HCBS Waiver in NY State.

New OPWDD Website Read More »

Special Needs Planning Financial, Legal and Health Records Management

I have received many e mails from people with disabilities and their families concerned over the Social Security Agency proposal to conduct more frequent disability reviews.

In addition, the governor of NY addressed a very significant issue last week that will affect people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In Governor Cuomos’ 2020 State of the State address last week in Albany, the governor intends to empower the state legislature to close the state medicaid deficit with an eye out for OPWDD.

The time has come for families and individuals to take a more active role keeping a lifetime of personal health records in HIPAA compliant virtual vaults. Your information must be organized and readily available for any disability reviews through the lifetime. One’s financial, legal and health special needs planning is under attack.

Be on the look out for the launch of SFC’s ‘s virtual vault for record keeping.

Coming soon.

Special Needs Planning Financial, Legal and Health Records Management Read More »


In my role as a special needs planner, I have refrained from writing about a financial remedy concept called chalimony. Chalimony is a financial remedy concept which can impact special needs outcomes for families in which divorce is present or a non shared household.

For most of these families, child support and alimony are the traditional remedy. However, chalimony bridges the gap, and would be more effective in allocating the financial burden between payor and care taking parent.

In the spirit of systemic change in family law, chalimony increases incentives for both parents to advocate for changes in employment, education, childcare, and community practices that will make it possible for all people with special care needs to access the care they desire.

Learn more about chalimony and engage systemic change for our kids with special needs!

Happy Holiday and New Year 

Chalimony Read More »

Happy, Healthy and Financial Security – Possible or Not?

The recent settlement by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities with the plaintiffs in the Union Avenue IRA re: abuse and neglect does not address the root of the problem.

In the settlement, OPWDD relinquishes ownership of the group home to a private not for profit entity. The lead lawyer for the plaintiffs stated ” We lost all faith the the agency ( OPWDD ) to run the house effectively. The most important thing the families want is for their loved ones to be safe, and they have no confidence that the state would keep them safe”.


Is this a solution to a systemic problem in which direct service workers, and their oversight is perceived as a big part of the problem? We have created a punitive culture, one whose role is to prosecute and punish DSP’s and their authorities.

What can we can do foster a DSP culture which is energetic, dedicated, and progressive?

Recruit high school graduates or the equivalent? Develop management tracks for training? Offer more aggressive tax benefits and loan forgiveness to people willing to work as DSP’s for a specified number of years. Offer scholarships for DSP’s who study and move up the ladder. Create a positive culture. Consider loosening work visas for DSP’s. Allow for federal and state waiver dollars for intentional communities.

Social work is a business. It used to be the work of government.

Happy, Healthy and Financial Security – Possible or Not? Read More »

Institutional Roadblocks to Supported Decision Making

I have the privilege for over 20 years to advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In that capacity, I have served on the board of local and state agencies, councils, schools, and task forces. I have asked a lot of questions and made many recommendations on behalf of individuals and families.

I am particularly disappointed at school transition coordinators and administrators advocating guardianship at the age of majority, which commences on the eighteen birthday. Though most states lack data on guardianship, I can say with certainty as a special needs planner, that in New York City, my domicile, most schools encourage guardianship over less restrictive decision making options.

I will address this troublesome fact in more detail for those of you who subscribe to the Stuart Flaum Consulting newsletter. However, I ask you:

” How can you expect your children to be safe, make informed decisions, and build independent living skills when culture does not encourage their self determination and self advocacy from birth? I define the culture as families, schools and the legal system.”

Institutional Roadblocks to Supported Decision Making Read More »

Social Security and People with IDD

All of our clients are people with disabilities and their families; this is the Stuart Flaum Consulting mission as of 2008. We would like to let you know our focus is special needs planning. We are holistic planners, providing pragmatic, thoughtful and measurable strategies. Can you think of an obstacle in special needs planning?

” Why is SSI, SSDI and the myriad SSA rules so intimidating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities?”

The Social Security Administration is an independent agency within the US federal government.The agency employees 60,000 people and recently provided over 66 Million services to beneficiaries. There are thousands of pages in the POM as well as pages and pages of not personally useful information on the internet.

However, I have found that understanding the rules specific to the program, be it SSI or SSDI is possible for families. 

At Stuart Flaum Consulting, we make it our business, working with caregivers, parents and individuals, advocating special needs planning best practices, coordinating earned and unearned income, in a customized, easy to understand individual financial plan. In other words, incorporate the Social Security Administration’s benefits, of parents and beneficiaries, into a person’s financial life plan and/or special needs plan. special strategies.

Social Security and People with IDD Read More »