Having a special needs child can be a lonely experience. Even if your child has siblings, concern over his or her future beyond your lifetime could weigh on your mind. My parents-in-law are facing this now. My brother-in-law Andy was born on 19 January 1978 in a small city in Indonesia. That makes him 41 years old this year.
Andy has non-verbal autism. When he was young, there was no therapy for children with autism, so he grew up with little improvement. He has his obsessions, his repetitive actions, and his frustrations. His sole caregivers are my parents-in-law. They have no clear plans for Andy’s future.
If only they lived in countries where there are non-profit organisations like the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC), which helps families with special needs children plan for their future care.
Right now, the SNTC is the only organisation of its kind in Singapore. It aims to serve lower to middle class families which have a member with special needs. The SNTC is one among few in the world. Currently, other not-for-profit organisations in this field exist only in Hong Kong and the United States.
Common Concerns of Parents of a Special Needs Child
My parents-in-law, now 76 and 69, switched to a healthy lifestyle 25 years ago. They hope to be alive for as long as possible. However, it is likely that Andy will outlive them. Hence they need to think of someone trustworthy to care for Andy after they die. They also worry about his financial security and his future care.
(See also: 14 Tips to Help if You have a Child with Autism)
How SNTC can help
If Andy and his parents were Singapore Citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents residing here, the SNTC would be their best solution. My parents-in-law would have been referred to SNTC through SPED schools or hospitals when Andy was younger.
After being assessed, should his conditions qualify him for assistance, the SNTC would recommend setting up a trust for Andy.
This trust is designed to help persons with special needs who have difficulty progressing in studies and obtaining employment because of impairment in physical, sensory, intellectual and/or developmental to move on with life beyond their caregivers’ lifetime.
It is open to any person of any age and financial circumstances. SNTC’s professional fees are subsidised by the MSF (Ministry of Social and Family Development). The fees are nominal after this subsidy.
There are at least three main benefits of engaging the services of SNTC.
- Case Managers who have social work training handle the cases. They follow guidelines and ethics that prioritise the welfare of the beneficiary.
- The SNTC does not keep the trust money. The Public Trustee’s Office manages it, and the government guarantees the principal sum.
- The SNTC fees are far more affordable than those of private trust companies or banks.
How does it work?
First, the SNTC appoints a Case Manager to review the application. Let’s call our Case Manager Ms. A. Ms. A will set up an initial meeting with Andy’s parents. During this meeting, she will determine whether Andy has family support, and discuss the kinds of services that suit the family’s circumstances best.
Ms. A will review the arrangements made for Andy with his parents every year. This review will include assets, family support, interventions needed, and the setting of short and long-term goals. Ms. A will also advice the parents to seek legal advice in order to make their will.
When Andy’s parents pass away or are unable to take care of him anymore due to old age challenges or illnesses, the service will be activated to meet his needs according to his parents’ wishes. The SNTC will continue to check on Andy’s welfare.
The SNTC Trust
You will need an initial sum of S$5,000 to set up the trust, which is irrevocable. The trust monies belong to the beneficiary. They remain protected from the settlor’s creditors unless the trust was set up to avoid the settlor’s existing creditors.
Monies in an SNTC’s trust account can be topped up anytime and by anyone. If Andy’s parents wish to top up the trust even after their deaths, they can do so through insurance nominations, CPF nominations, and/or their wills.
But what happens to the balance of monies in Andy’s trust account after his death? In this case, the SNTC will distribute the residual funds as planned by his parents during the trust set-up. They could go, for instance, to Andy’s siblings. If Andy passes away while his parents are still alive, the money goes back to his parents.
Special Needs Savings Scheme (SNSS)
Another option to provide for Andy is to make use of the Special Needs Savings Scheme (SNSS), which the SNTC administers. The SNSS is an extension of the current CPF nomination scheme. Instead of nominating a lump sum payout to their child with special needs, parents can opt for a monthly payout.
Under the SNSS, the parents’ monies in their CPF accounts continue to earn interest after their demise. Andy’s parents can decide how much to disburse from the CPF account monthly to meet his care needs. Since Andy lacks the mental capacity to manage his finances, his parents will have to appoint a deputy to receive this monthly payout for him.
Activating the SNTC Trust
When Andy’s parents pass away and if he has no relatives to support him, he will need to be institutionalised. Andy’s inheritance from his parents’ estate will be injected into the trust to be used for his care needs.
“If I die and will my money to a relative to take care of my child who has special needs, what happens if they fail to do so?” If your child has special needs, this is probably a question that you have considered when thinking about your child’s future, especially with regard to financial security. Now, you have the answer.
To learn more about the SNTC, visit www.sntc.org.sg or www.facebook.com/SNTCSG, call 6278 9598, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org