special needs planning

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.

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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.

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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 

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