Special Needs Planning:

Parents need someone to help them put all the pieces together for their child’s life today and 20 years from now. That’s where Wilson Legal comes in. We look at what parents have already set up for their child for education and therapies. We consider the child’s ability to do the activities of daily living now – dressing, eating, ambulating, transferring and hygiene – and what we think they’ll be able to do in the future. We think about the living scenario that mom and dad believe is doable for them – whether that’s living with roommates or family members or even independently. Then we look at the financial piece. What will it cost for your child to have the life you want them to have? And what will it take for your child’s lifetime when you pass away?

Parents of Special Needs Children are looking for:

  1. Educational opportunities
  2. Life skills
  3. Caregivers and/or house managers
  4. Financial advisors and investment options
  5. Spiritual and emotional support
  6. Special needs planning is all about getting the most out of life for your loved one with special needs and keeping your money in your pocket avoiding as many government taxes, fees, and costs as possible.

Parents are overwhelmed by the information about programs, the offices they need to contact and how all the pieces are going to fit together. Three federal laws protect individuals with special needs. The Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1975, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Medicaid benefits begin before a child graduates from high school. There are several Georgia Medicaid programs for children with disabilities:

  1. The Katie Beckett Medicaid program under Section 134 of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) of 1982,
  2. The Autism Spectrum Disorder for individuals under the age of 21
  3. The Georgia Pediatric Program (GAPP) for medically fragile children with multiple system diagnoses – for nursing services and personal care to assist with activities of daily living
  4. The NOW and COMP waiver programs provide employment support, housing services, vehicle adaptation, medical supplies and equipment and behavior support.

We will make a list or budget of estimated expenses and then look at how we can fund it. The biggest tool we use is life insurance that is paid into a third-party special needs trust. What is a third-party special needs trust (or other kinds of special needs trusts)? A trust is a great place for other relatives to distribute money for the support of the child. We use other tools as well such as financial tools like ABLE accounts which are like a Roth IRA accounts for individuals with disabilities, financial powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives for those who will be able to live independently and guardianships for those who will not be able to function independently.

For Loved Ones of Adults with Special Needs:

Once your loved one with special needs nears adulthood, caregivers can begin to panic a bit. For those who need guardianships, there’s a race to the courthouse to complete the process as soon as the special needs adult turns 18 to avoid any gaps in care where no one is appointed to provide care.

For adults with special needs who are more independent, there’s a race to obtain financial powers of attorney and healthcare advance directives so that the new adult has their support team in place without any gaps where emergency contacts have no right to information about their well-being.

Loved ones are often caught without a plan when their disabled family member graduates from high school and now they are left wondering “Now what?” When it comes to life after high school, we start with where the child will want to live. Some continue living with mom and dad. Some are independent enough to search out a more independent option like their own apartment by themselves or with roommates or a group home environment with a house manager. Once we have the living situation picked out, we look for ways to make that happen now and years into the future including how we’ll pay for it. Adults with special needs will usually have lower paying jobs and even combining their income with Social Security Disability income, they fall short of the total costs of living and being able to save for retirement. That’s where the savings and life insurance from other loved ones and Medicaid programs can help fill in the gap.

We could still use tools like the third-party special needs trust to allow the special needs child to have the benefit of funds in excess of the Medicaid resource limits. Other tools include ABLE accounts, lovingly disinheriting a loved one where you give their portion of the inheritance to another relative who is asked to undertake the responsibility of caring for the adult with special needs. Often homes are given to the healthy relative who will be the roommate. Our goal is to assist everyone to live their best life – that includes you and your loved ones with special needs.


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