PLANNING FOR YOUR CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

By: Rebekah L. McKinney

Virtually all parents begin making plans for their child’s future from the moment their child enters the world. Parents of children with disabilities face the uniquely daunting task of planning for a child whose future personal and financial needs are uncertain.  Guardianship and special needs trusts are two important legal tools that can help families plan for the needs of their disabled children.
 
Guardianship
Parents of special needs children are often apprehensive about their child turning 18 years old, as the child becomes a legal adult and the parents lose their ability to manage the child’s person and finances. For those families, guardianship can provide the mechanism that allows them to continue helping their child until the child acquires the skills necessary to manage their person and finances. In Kentucky, guardianship is accomplished through a court proceeding in the local district court. Guardianship is designed to allow the disabled child to exercise as much control over his or her life as possible, while allowing the guardian to manage decisions the disabled child is incapable of making.  Some powers that may be granted to a guardian include: (i) making living arrangements for the disabled child; (ii) managing the disabled child’s finances; (iii) making medical decisions for the disabled child; and (iv) securing educational and vocational opportunities for the disabled child.  If the disabled child acquires the skills to manage their person or finances, the guardianship can be terminated.
 
Special Needs Trusts
Special needs trusts are an important and frequently used technique to secure the future needs of a disabled child. They allow a disabled child to remain eligible for needs-based government benefits, such as Medicaid, SSDI, and Social Security Income, despite having resources in excess of the program’s resource limitations. Generally, needs-based government benefits only provide for a disabled child’s food, medical, and shelter costs.  By establishing a special needs trust, the family of a disabled child can ensure that the disabled child will have access to funds that improve his or her quality of life, including recreational and vocational activities, hobbies, vacations, and purchasing a handicap accessible vehicle, among other things.
 
The experienced attorneys at Bell, Orr, Ayers & Moore, P.S.C. can help make the future a little more certain by establishing the right plan for you and your child.