Disabled Child’s Special Needs and Adulthood
Q. My child
with a disability is turning 18. Can he continue to get the publicly funded
services we were able to get for him as a minor?
Once your child turns 18 your legal authority over him ends. For example, you
were able to get involved in his education through development of an Individual
Education Plan (IEP) to assure that he received public benefits that enabled
him to succeed at school. Now that he is an adult his financial and care needs
are his legal responsibility.
Q. My child
can’t do this by herself. What can I do to help assure that she gets the
services she needs?
A. A first
recommended step is to have your child apply for benefits under the Social
Security Income (SSI) program at your local Social Security Office if your
child has less than $2,000 of property in her own name. Once SSI is obtained
she will be automatically eligible for Medicaid coverage upon applying to the
Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). This will open the door
to valuable community health services not otherwise available; particularly in
regard to mental health.
Q. My child is
really not able to make informed decisions regarding his care and finances. How
can I continue to step in and do that for him?
are a number of steps that can be taken to establish a continuing authority for
you. In regard to Social Security, you should apply to the Social Security
Administration to be a Representative Payee at the time SSI is applied for.
This is the only agent for receipt of payments that Social Security will
Another step would be to establish a guardianship through the Superior
Court. This approach does have the drawback of eliminating the rights of the
disabled person to act independently, making them more vulnerable. It is a
public record of developmental disability with a potential for stigmatization.
Lastly, it is an expensive and time consuming court process. It should only be
undertaken when necessary.
There are alternatives to guardianship which can eliminate these drawbacks
and pave the way for an enhanced quality of life with the lowest degree of
restrictions on an individual’s rights, such as Powers of Attorney for medical
and mental healthcare and Durable Powers of Attorney for Finances. These legal
documents serve much the same purpose as a guardianship and are strictly
private, eliminating the potential for stigma and the added costs of a
continuing court process.
Q. Can I
continue to provide financial support to my child while he or she is receiving
special needs individual receiving an inheritance, lawsuit settlement, or
monetary gift can be disqualified from having Social Security and Medicaid
benefits if proper planning is not done. A special needs trust can be
utilized to protect their money and keep their savings below the Social
Security and Medicaid requirement of $2,000. There are several forms of Special
Needs Trusts and the design and administration of the trust is critical in
order to provide all of the protection and benefits needed. A Special Needs
Trust enables you to appoint someone you trust to manage assets and advocate
for the individual. It also provides for an enhanced quality of life for the
beneficiary and as well as allows one to be self-reliant and independent to the
maximum extent possible.
have seen standard forms on the internet and elsewhere. Can I use these forms?
While these forms can be helpful for families that simply cannot afford an
attorney, they are often not suitable for a given set of circumstances. Both
Arizona law and federal law provide special requirements for these documents to
be valid and protect your child’s government benefits. A standard form may not
conform to those requirements. It is best to consult a special needs attorney
for assistance in most cases.
At Arizona Mobile Attorneys we provide assistance to families in obtaining
and maintining government benefits for individulas with special needs.