Memorandum of Intent in Special Needs Planning

Memorandum of Intent in Special Needs Planning
Photo Credit: Wagner Law

Special needs planning is a legal process in which the rights, responsibilities, and resources of family members or specialists are documented and communicated. It can be used to cover any number of eventualities, from chronic illness to disability. By creating a memorandum of intent, families can decide who will oversee their children if they become incapacitated or incapable of making decisions for themselves. They can also help commit funds for assisted living services or provide an advocate for the child in court. This can be a difficult process due to the inherent conflict of information. A child’s specialist team and the family must work together to find solutions that work for everyone involved.

With the advancement of technology, many children are being diagnosed with chronic illnesses like autism or muscular dystrophy. Some families recognize the potential for medical and disability expenses in the future and want to protect the family’s resources. They may want to create a memorandum of intent that is binding on their children in such a situation. It is important to remember that the child or family is not required to follow the terms of a memorandum of intent. The goal, therefore, is to provide a roadmap for the future so that children can be appropriately cared for, benefits can be paid, and services can be accessed. It should also offer a guarantee for the family’s rights regarding future care decisions and any recommendations on behalf of the child. This allows both sides to have peace of mind.

What Information Goes into a Memorandum of Intent?

A memorandum of intent creates a legal document that gives guidance on decisions regarding a child’s future. There are many things to discuss, such as the best place for the child to live. Perhaps in their own residence, if money is available for the services required. A team of specialists and family members will work together to draw up this document. The focus will likely be on an individual’s needs and health status rather than their personal or family history. The document is designed to be binding, and it is intended to have an overriding message that will guide the child in his or her future care.

Who Can Sign a Memorandum of Intent?

To be valid, the document must be signed by a parent or guardian of the child. It is often helpful to sign with the help of an attorney, especially if parents are involved in a custody battle. If parents are able to agree on these terms, there is no need for additional signatures by other stakeholders. If it is necessary to involve other people, however, they can sign at that time.

How Is a Memorandum of Intent Enforced?

Because it is a document, there will generally be a little compulsion to follow its terms. If the family or the child’s specialists want to do something that is outside the path of a memorandum of intent, they can do so. On the other hand, if there are disagreements and there is no agreement on what should happen in these circumstances, court proceedings can be initiated under certain conditions. The memorandum of intent is valuable in helping prepare for future actions, but it is not legally binding by itself. It can be used as a way to help avoid adversarial court action by bringing everyone to the table and making them work together.

What Rights Does a Child Have?

A child is also considered an autonomous individual under the law, and he or she has the right to make their own decisions about their future care. In the event they become incapacitated or incapable of making these decisions, an attorney can help them by speaking to the appropriate parties and explaining the terms of a memorandum of intent. A parent is also able to change a power of attorney at any time, but this must be documented. They can also speak to a court about what should happen in their absence. It is important for a parent to have this information written down for the future. It is a guarantee of their rights to make decisions on behalf of their children.

How Often Should I Update the Memorandum of Intent?

It is important to keep this document up to date. Otherwise, it may no longer reflect the current situation of the child and family. If they are going through a process like bankruptcy, the goal may be to put everything into a legal document. This can help ensure that their children’s interests are protected in this process as well. With financial institutions involved, it is important to put all finances onto paper so that they are not vulnerable in case something happens to someone involved. Changes to these documents should be reviewed by an attorney for the validity of their terms.


In summary, there are many reasons to have a memorandum of intent. It creates a legal document that provides guidance in a time of need. If the child’s family or specialists disagree, they can go to court and ask for an intervention to ensure that their rights as a parent are protected. It is better to prepare for the future than it is to wait until it happens and then scramble to make decisions on behalf of the child.

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