A Home of Her Own

Steps this family took to learn  how to buy a home for their daughter with Down’s Syndrome.

“It just made sense.”

Sisters living together
Mary and Katrina Schwanke are sisters who live independently in the same home.

That’s how Mary Schwanke, sister to LIFEPlan member Katrina Schwanke, described the decision to purchase a home and live together. Katrina, 32, has Downs’ syndrome, and lived at home with her parents Don and Kathy all her life. Mary is single and ready to move into a permanent home after years of apartment living.

“We knew Katrina needed a home for the long term, and we’re not getting any younger,” said Kathy when asked about the decision to pursue home ownership. “Mary and Katrina have always been close, and Katrina wanted more independence.”

To start the process, the Schwanke’s sought professional advice to learn what it would take to set up an LLC, which allowed them to purchase a home for Katrina and Mary without jeopardizing Katrina’s  Special Needs Trust, Medicaid or SSI benefits.

They hired special needs financial adviser James Traylor of Upstate Special Needs Planning in Rochester, NY. Traylor introduced the family to the process, which gave the Schwanke’s options to provide independent housing for Katrina.

The process took about 6 months and required a financial investment from Katrina’s parents and Katrina via her Special Needs Trust.

The steps included:

    • Find a home
    • Set up LLC to protect Katrina’s Special Needs Trust, and for liability protection to the Schwanke’s  should an accident occur on the property
    • Apply for Family Support Services Funding, which assisted with moving and home set up expenses
    • Apply for mortgage with a bank that was open to working with the Schwanke’s for a special needs home buying scenario

While not a solution for all, Don expressed that families of individuals with disability should think broadly and look into options that might not make sense at first. “We were skeptical of hiring a financial adviser at first, thinking it would be too expensive,” said Don.

“However, we learned that hiring a knowledgeable adviser gave us information and options that more than paid for itself, with benefits that offset the fees.”


This is the first in a series of blog posts describing how LIFEPlan members are meeting housing challenges. Mary Schwanke is Program Manager at Casey’s Place and a LIFEPlan CNY Member and Family Advisory Council Member. For more information on how the Schwanke family purchased a home for Katrina and Mary, contact Mary Schwanke. 
The Schwanke’ s hired Rochester based special needs planning financial adviser James Traylor of Upstate Special Needs Planning.