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Hey there. My name is Phillip Clark. I’m a Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC) and the founder of ENABLE Special Needs Planning – where we believe that everyone has the ability to be impactful.

To help you prepare for our upcoming Game Plan session, I want you to...

  1. Show you why the traditional approach to planning doesn’t work -- It failed my family. And it’s likely to blame for why you might’ve struggled to plan for your loved one.
  2. Then explain an alternative approach to planning. An approach that I wish my parents had had when my sister was younger and they were trying to plan for her future.

If we’ve never met before, I want to get started by sharing just a little bit about my background and why I’m so passionate about helping your family plan for the future for your loved one…

My Story

When I was only four years old my younger sister, Sarah, was born. And just like so many families I’ve talked to over the years, my parents didn’t get a "Congratulations" from her doctors. Instead, my parents heard, "I’m sorry—I think your daughter has Down syndrome."

Sarah’s early years were filled with professionals telling my parents what to expect from her life:

  • Heart Problems
  • Thyroid Problems
  • Learning disabilities
  • The list went on and on….

A daunting number of doctors appointments and therapies started…. We lived about two hours from Indianapolis, IN, and most of her therapies and doctors appointments were located there. So I often joke that it seemed like we lived in a minivan—with all of the appointments we had to go to for Sarah. At each appointment, the list of limited expectations just kept growing.

Overwhelmed didn’t even begin to describe how my parents felt during those early years. There were so many emotional conversations, filled with tears and fears about Sarah’s future.

Years went by and, honestly, Sarah was thriving compared to the limited expectations that my parents had worried about. Sure, life was challenging, but she was defying the odds and doing better than we'd expected from those early warnings.

However, as we grew up, the difficult and emotional conversations continued. But now they were about what Sarah’s future was going to look like – and how to get prepared for whatever lay ahead.

Honestly, I felt like these conversations made my parents more afraid and emotional than earlier discussions of possible open-heart surgeries. In these family discussions about Sarah's future—there never seemed to be answers.

My parents tried to be proactive in these challenges. So many times, a babysitter would come to our house because my parents had another evening or Saturday afternoon planning seminar. But these events never seemed to provide them with the answers they were seeking or a sense of relief from their fears about Sarah's future.

Eventually, my parents were told they needed a 'special needs plan' for Sarah. So they found an attorney who drafted a Special Needs Trust. And they met with a local insurance agent to talk about how to fund Sarah’s trust in the future. After what seemed like countless meetings and deep conversations, my parents signed some papers and wrote quite a few checks. Then the professionals shook my parents’ hands and stopped coming to our home.

As a teenager, I thought, "It’s finally over. Finally, my parents won’t be so stressed all the time."


However... I can’t say my parents ever really seemed at peace. Sure, they’d done what they were told to do and set up a 'special needs plan' for Sarah’s future. But not only did questions about Sarah’s future still come up frequently, now my parents were asking things like, "Did we do the right thing?" "How would we know?" and "Is there more we should be doing to plan for Sarah’s future?"

When I was deciding what I wanted to do with my future and how I wanted to make a difference, it always came back to Sarah… and my parents’ experience trying to do everything to give her the best possible future.

I knew there had to be a better way to do 'special needs planning' than what my parents had experienced.

There had to be a process that actually provided a sense of security and peace of mind.

Security and peace of mind were two things my parents seemed to lack even after completing their 'special needs planning' journey.

So I decided to go into financial planning to help families, much like ours, prepare for the future. I joined a firm that said they did special needs planning. And I was so excited about it.

However, I quickly discovered a couple problems with the firm's overall approach to planning:

  1. First, I realized that the conversations, the solutions, and the strategies they offered were the same with every family we talked to. It was a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to planning for the future for every individual with special needs.
  2. Second, and an even bigger problem from my perspective, was that 'special needs planning' was only focused on when my parents--and other parents--passed away.

I’m not saying that what would happen to Sarah when my parents died wasn't something that we worried about. Just like I’m sure this is something that you worry about.

But as a proud big brother, I looked at that traditional approach to planning and said, "No, I believe that special needs planning should be focused on allowing my sister--and your child--to live a happy, fulfilling, and purposeful life TODAY...and every day in the future. And this plan has to work no matter what life throws at us."

After being affiliated with three different planning firms that all claimed to do 'special needs planning' but didn't offer custom plans and only focused on what happens when the parents are gone, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to change the traditional planning firms. But I certainly could change the conversations that I was having with the families I was serving.

I wanted to help families create unique plans--tailored to THEIR child's specific needs and goals--that would ultimately give the entire family a sense of security today and peace of mind that they were doing everything possible to plan for an abundant future.

The sense of security and peace of mind that I desperately wished my parents had had years ago.

That's when I founded my organization: ENABLE Special Needs Planning.

The Problem

If you’ve started your special needs planning journey more than likely you’ve been exposed to what I like to call the 'traditional planning process.'

According to Google, the most commonly searched term that relates to special needs planning is: Special Needs Trust.

That is what we are told is biggest piece of a special needs plan.

A Special Needs Trust gives you a vehicle to put money into so that your son or daughter doesn’t lose government benefits. And that is absolutely an important part of the planning journey—not losing those essential resources and services.

Once you set up your Special Needs Trust, most of the time, it doesn’t get pre-loaded with money in it. Unfortunately.

When you create a Special Needs Trust what you really have is an empty shell of a trust agreement.

So the next question becomes, how are we going to fund our trust?

Most families don’t have an extra couple million dollars just lying around that they can deposit into their son or daughter's Special Needs Trust.

So taking out a life insurance policy is often a strategy used to fund the trust in the future. This is a very effective and efficient way to make sure there will be enough money for your child no matter what happens.

So this is the Traditional Planning Process: It’s a Special Needs Trust coupled with a life insurance policy.

Step 1

  • Shields money to prevent the disruption of government benefits

  • Allows your child to have more than $2,000 without losing access to government benefits

Step 2

  • An effective way to protect against life’s unknowns
  • Allows you to efficiently move money from your estate into your child’s trust

And I’m certainly not saying that these two things shouldn’t be part of your family's special needs plan. As I mentioned earlier, my parents are using both of these strategies in Sarah's plan and it’s likely that these two elements may fit well into your plan, too.

But let me ask you a few questions... 

  • Does a Special Needs Trust and a life insurance policy solve all of your problems? 
  • Does this type of plan answer all of your questions about what your child’s future is going to be like? 
  • Does this version of special needs planning provide you with a sense of security today and peace of mind about the future?

As I already told you, my parents never really stopped worrying about Sarah’s future... even after they had this portion of her plan in place.

Going a step further...

If we think about this as a standalone plan--a Special Needs Trust and a life insurance policy--what has to happen to you for this plan to go into effect?

You have to die.

Is that really the only thing you want to plan for?

Don’t get me wrong. Planning for the 'What Ifs...' in life is essential. We need to prevent any future assets or inheritance from disrupting your child’s government benefits.

But to me, for my family, for my sister, special needs planning needed to be so much more than that.

So if you're currently feeling uneasy about your son or daughter's special needs plan AND you've approached planning in this traditional way ==> that’s likely the reason you still have questions, doubts, and fears.

From my experience growing up with Sarah--I get it.

The Solution

Special Needs Planning has to be much better. Planning needs to be centered on making sure your entire family, including your child, can have a secure future.

Your family’s Special Needs Planning journey should be designed to give you the peace of mind that you are doing EVERYTHING in your power to create an abundant future for your loved one—and an abundant future for your entire family.

Every family needs a plan specifically tailored to them. The specific strategies that make up your family's special needs plan have to be unique to you, your unique goals, and your unique challenges.

However, there are 4 KEY components that every family’s plan must address:

The most important part of every plan is determining WHY you’re planning in the first place. The Vision Planning Process is designed to help you clarify what success looks like for yourself, for your family, for all your kids, and most importantly for your child with special needs.

Once you have a clear vision of what you're trying to get accomplished, only then can we begin to take action steps to enact strategies that fit your family.

With most of your biggest goals (retirement, a new home, college, funding your Special Needs Trust), it’s going to take intentional Financial Planning to accomplish them.

After you’ve determine the financial strategies needed to accomplish the goals you envisioned, a properly structured Legal Plan will protect your entire family--including your child’s future--from so many things that are out of our control. Along with your wills, trusts, Special Needs Trusts, and other estate planning documents, a big part of your family’s Legal Plan is naming your child’s future care team for when you're no longer here.

Finally, there are people in your life who need to understand what their role in your plan looks like TODAY... and what their roles and responsibilities could be in the future. Communicating your plan in an easy to understand way is an essential step in your family's special needs planning journey.

While the specific details and strategies that make up your family’s special needs plan will be tailored to YOU, every family needs to have intentional conversations and make plans in each of these four areas. 

I can’t wait to dive deeper into all of this with you during our upcoming Game Plan session. When we connect, I’ll show you exactly how my team at ENABLE helps families create a plan that does all of this... and so much more... and we can discuss what next steps could look like for your family.

My promise to you is that at the end of our upcoming Game Plan session, you'll feel empowered to take the best next step to help your family create a plan that provides you a sense of security today and peace of mind about the future.

See you soon,

Phillip Clark, Charted Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC)

Founder, ENABLE Special Needs Planning

Does the ENABLE approach to Special Needs Planning really work?

As a consulting organization... are judged by one, single metric:

"The success of the families you serve."

Below you'll find ENABLE reviews and success stories from families who've chosen to partner with our team of expert Special Needs Consultants to create plans that provide their families with a sense of security today and peace of mind about the future. 

We will let this information stand for itself. And yes, results will vary.

Name: Emily & Robert Kessler

Location: Louisiana

Name: Lauren & Katlin Shelor

Location: Virginia

Name: John & Carly Durham

Location: Texas

Name: Becca Kempson

Location: Indiana

Name: Beth Hoffman

Location: Ohio

Name: Ryan & Lilly Capecci

Location: Indiana

Name: Terah Romero

Location: Colorado

Name: Robyn Sandberg

Location: New York

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