By: Michael Monheit, Esq
According to the National Organization on Disability, 57 million Americans live with some type of disability. Parents who are raising a special needs child find the experience rewarding and challenging at the same time. There are good days and there are bad days. Parents of such children also need to think about their child’s future. While you never want to think about not being there for your child, there may come a time when that becomes a reality. Therefore, it’s important to think ahead and plan for your child’s future by considering legal matters that may affect your child.
Some aspects of your child’s future to consider are:
It is vital to plan for your child’s future. In doing so, you will have peace of mind and will be prepared when your child reaches adulthood. You need to understand the legal changes that take place when your child reaches the age of majority. Keep in mind that when this happens your legal rights regarding your child change. For instance, you may no longer be able to access your child’s health and academic records or any other information that is considered confidential.
If you have health insurance for your minor child there’s a good chance all their necessary healthcare has been covered. An important consideration for you is to know what happens with the health insurance once your child is considered an adult. You must review your private health insurance plan because different insurers will handle insurance policies differently. You will need to know if your child will remain on your plan if he or she continues with school. Some plans allow adult children to be covered up until the age of 26. It is also possible that your special needs child will be covered under your policy indefinitely if you provide more than 50 percent of your child’s care and support.
According to the law, a disabled person, no matter how severe his or her disability is, has the legal right to make decisions on his or her own behalf once the age of majority is reached. If you think your child is too impaired to make sound decisions, then you must become their legal guardian. AutismSpeaks.org defines guardianship as “a court-ordered arrangement in which one person is given the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of another person whom a court has deemed to be incapacitated.” A guardian is not required to fulfill parental duties and the sole responsibility of a guardian is to act in the best interests of the person with a disability, making decisions on their behalf that will be most beneficial to the disabled person.
Is Guardianship Necessary?
Suppose your child is able to make some decisions on his or her own, but with other areas of life, may need a little help and wisdom. While it can be difficult to let your child grow up and make decisions, every parent has the need to protect their child.
A guardianship can allow you to help your child with major decisions while allowing them to retain control over their own lives and make day-to-day decisions. There are several matters to consider when deciding how much authority over your child you will require. Some areas where your child might require your help in decision-making include medical, financial, educational, vocational, living arrangements, safety, self-care, and communication.
Special Needs Trust
You might want to set up a special needs trust which holds assets for a special needs beneficiary. This ensures there will be funds available to your child throughout his or her lifetime and will not affect any government benefits he or she may receive. A trustee, which is usually the custodial parent, manages the trust and disburses payments to the beneficiary as needed.
While there is much to consider when planning for your special needs child’s future, you will have peace of mind once you have done so. Since the legal matters can be complex and confusing, it is best to consult an attorney so that you can make informed decisions regarding your child’s future.
Michael Monheit, Esq is one of the founding lawyers of Monheit Law, P.C. where they are dedicated to the protection of individual rights. The firm specializes in birth injury, brain damage, brachial plexus injuries, negligence and malpractice lawsuits.