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While it seems obvious that one day you'll be called upon to care for an elderly relative, let's reverse the situation. What happens if you're a parent of a special-needs child for whom you'll need to provide lifelong care?

The best guide I know of is Mary Anne Ehlert's new book, The Gift I Was Given. Ehlert is a nationally respected financial planner who has developed a program to assist families with disabled children. The book tells the story of how she and her family dealt with the challenges of her sister Marcia, who was born with cerebral palsy. It is also the story of the anguish her parents felt as they grew older and realized the difficulty of planning for their daughter's care after they were gone.

I won't spoil the story, except to say that Marcia is the gift mentioned in the title, as I learned when I interviewed Mary Anne several years ago. Ehlert continues to more than repay that gift by creating financial plans and teaching her system to other planners. She has created strategies specifically designed for the millions of parents dealing with children who will likely live long lives with conditions like autism or physical handicaps.

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