Special Needs & Disability Planning

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What you need to know...

Individuals of all ages may face the challenges of living with special needs or a disabling condition.  Often, family members need to seek out education and consult with knowledgeable advisors to determine the best plan to protect their loved ones under each individual’s circumstances.

Here are some important pieces of information to know:

A will is the only legal document that enables parents to designate their choice of guardian for a minor child or a child with a disability upon the parent’s death.  It is very important to begin thinking about planning for individuals with special needs prior to their reaching age eighteen and/or twenty-two, and to ensure that their medical record fully and accurately documents their disability prior to such time.  Once an individual turns eighteen, no one can make medical or financial decisions on his or her behalf without further action.

Ideally, if an individual with a disability has the capacity to execute powers of attorney for financial matters and/or healthcare, such planning should certainly be instituted to avoid the need to petition a court for guardianship/conservatorship of such person.  Obtaining a guardianship and/or conservatorship is an expensive, lengthy process that may unfortunately be necessary for some, but which may be unnecessary and avoidable for others. Attorneys knowledgeable in this area of the law can work with you and your medical providers to determine what options are available in any particular situation.

Individuals with disabilities may qualify for certain governmental benefits including Social Security Disability Income, Supplemental Security Income, MOHealthNet (Medicaid), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the State Childhood Health Insurance Program, among others.  Each of these programs has stringent rules and eligibility requirements that must be met.

Often, common estate planning mistakes that occur when you have loved ones with special needs or disabilities include failing to plan entirely, not updating your plan as situations change, naming the child or individual with disabilities as a beneficiary, and failing to let other family members know of the risks of leaving money to a child with a disabling condition.  Know that there are many options for planning and each situation is different.  Some options include Missouri Achieving Better Life Experience Program (MOABLE) accounts, which are modeled after 529 College Savings Plans and have certain limitations, and distributing funds to special needs trusts.

A solution to determining the plan that is appropriate for your loved ones and obtaining piece of mind that they will be taken care of is consulting with a qualified estate planning attorney with experience in special needs planning.  Speak to the attorneys at Legacy Legal Group today so that you may protect your loved ones by planning in advance. 



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