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Creating A Special Needs Trust Is Easier Than You Think

Special Needs Trust, Attorney, Georgia, Atlanta, Duluth, Jeyaram & AssociatesWe all know putting into place a will and special needs trust is extremely important to help protect our special needs child now and in the future.

But with all the doctors appointments, therapies, calls to the insurance company and specialists, school work and not to mention laundry, bath time and meal preparation, finding the time to put into place a will and special needs trust seems impossible.

On most days, we’re lucky if we get to drink our cup of coffee while it’s still lukewarm. (I know I gave up the hope of drinking hot coffee a long time ago!)

No, Really. It’s Easier Than You Think

However putting into place a special needs trust really is easier than you think, and the process simply starts with a phone call or an email. Seriously. A phone call or email. That’s it.

When you call us, we’ll get your name and email address and then you’ll receive a questionnaire to complete. Don’t worry – it’s not like applying for a home loan or taking the SAT. And the good news is, you’ll already know most – if not all – of the answers.

Seriously, we ask things like your name, address, your child’s name and disability, a list of your assets, and whom you’d like to take care of your child if something were to happen to you.

No Right Or Wrong Answers

Most of these are answers we can recite in our sleep. No prep needed and there are no right or wrong answers. Further, don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers or if you have questions (like whom you should name as your child’s guardian). We’re here to help you, and we will guide you through the process to ensure that the special needs trust best meets your family’s needs.

Once you complete the form, I’ll review it and follow up with you if I have any questions. And then, a draft of your will and the special needs trust is created and sent to you to review.

We’re Here To Help You

We know you’re busy and adding one more thing to your “to-do” list seems daunting. But setting up a special needs trust is an important legal document to help protect your family and child with special needs. My email address is DJ@JeyLaw.com or you can call me at 678.325.3872. And when you come to the office to sign your will and special needs trust, I’ll have a hot cup of coffee waiting for you. 🙂

How To Obtain Guardianship For Your Special Needs Child

Guardianship Attorney GeorgiaIn many states, including Georgia, as soon as your special needs child turns 18, he or she becomes a legal adult and is assumed to be able to make decisions on their own behalf unless a court determines otherwise.

However, if you determine that retaining guardianship over your child once he or she turns 18 is in your child’s best interest, here’s how you do it. (See related post: Is Guardianship The Right Choice When Your Special Needs Child Turns 18?)

Start Planning BEFORE Your Child Turns 18

Requesting guardianship can be a lengthy and involved legal process. In order to retain guardianship of your child, you need to have the court appoint you as your child’s guardian.

To make sure there is not a gap in your child’s guardianship when he or she turns 18, it’s important to prepare your petition to the court well in advance of your child’s 18th birthday. If there is a gap in guardianship (i.e. your child turns 18 before you have guardianship) and a decision needs to be made about your child’s health or legal rights, it could cause some serious problems.

Step-By-Step Process

  • Every state’s guardianship laws differ slightly and the process can be daunting. This is where hiring an attorney to help guide you through the process is beneficial.
  • There are several forms you will need to complete, including forms that will need to be completed by a qualified physician to evaluate your child.
  • Once you submit the forms, your child will need to appear in court with you. As much as possible, you will want to help your child understand the process and what to expect in advance of actually appearing in court.
  • The court will appoint a representative for your child to help determine the merits of your claim that your child is not competent to act on his or her own behalf and that guardianship is in fact the right choice. The representative will most likely want to meet and visit with your child. In addition, in some circumstances, the representative may visit your child at home.
  • Finally, you will need to attend a hearing with your child. At this point, the judge will review and determine if your child is incapacitated and, if so, to what extent he or she requires assistance. Further, the judge will then decide if the person petitioning for guardianship will be appointed as guardian.

Some Things To Consider 

  • You and your spouse or significant other can petition the court to share guardianship. You will become co-guardians.
  • If your child’s need are complex, you can request that a non-profit agency or public or private corporation serve as your child’s guardian.
  • Guardianship may not be the right solution for your child. There are alternatives such as conservator or limited guardianship that give your child more independence.

Once You Are Awarded Guardianship

The paperwork doesn’t stop once you’re awarded guardianship. Every year you will need to file detailed reports about your child’s finances and overall well being. In some states, guardians must also provide proof that they’ve made adequate residential arrangements as well as provided appropriate healthcare services.

If the guardian cannot prove that they have adequately provided for their adult ward, then the court can remove the adult ward and name a different guardian.

Getting Started

As a parent of a special needs child and an attorney with extensive experience with legal issues relating to special needs children, I can help you navigate the complex guardianship process. DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

Got Katie Beckett? Your Child Could Qualify For NOW/COMP Waivers Too

NOW/COMP

If your child receives the Katie Beckett Waiver, first and foremost, congratulations!

You survived the laborious process of securing physical, speech and occupational therapy notes, medical histories, doctors’ notes and evaluations – not to mention probably resubmitting your 2-inch completed application more than once!

BUT, as parents of special needs children, we know it’s worth it. Without Katie Beckett our kids would not receive the services they need. So if the thought of going through yet another application process seems overwhelming – read on.

How Children Qualify for NOW/COMP Waivers

One of the benefits of being on Katie Beckett is that your child may also qualify for additional services through the state’s NOW/COMP Waivers – programs designed to help children and adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities (or a closely related condition) live at home or integrate into the community.

One of the Levels of Care that qualifies someone for an applicant for Katie Beckett is the Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF-ID). The ICF-ID level of care is the same level of care used to qualify an applicant for the NOW/COMP Waivers. So if you qualify under ICF-ID Level of Care for Katie Beckett, you should also qualify for NOW/COMP under the same level of care.

The NOW/COMP waivers increase the independence and quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities. They cover expenses not typically covered by Medicaid such as respite, job training, housing services, and transportation. Services can be provided to help support the individual during the day, night and weekends.

One of the common misconceptions is that the NOW/COMP Waivers are only for adults. And while it is true that many NOW/COMP services are aimed at older individuals, children may also qualify for the Waivers and utilize services more appropriate for children.

Approximately 12,000 individuals in Georgia receive services through the NOW/COMP waivers. The waiting lists are long and sometimes it takes years to get approved – but it’s worth it. And, here’s the best news yet – once your child receives the wavier, it’s his/hers as long as your child continues to meet the eligibility criteria during annual renewals and continues to need services.

Here are some of the services your child can receive.

Sample of Support Services NOW/COMP Covers

  • Nursing services: If your child has a clinical diagnosis that requires complex assessment and intervention, nursing services are available to help restore your child’s health or prevent further deterioration.
  • Respite – Brief periods of support or relief for caregivers. This includes hourly and overnight care for your special needs child.
  • Specialized Medical Equipment – Devices, controls or appliances that enable your child to increase the abilities to perform activities of daily living and interactive more independently.
  • Specialized Medical Supplies – Food supplements, special clothing, diapers, bed wetting protective gear and other supplies.
  • Vehicle Adaptation Services – Adaptations to your family’s vehicle such as hydraulic lifts, ramps, special sets, etc.

The aforementioned is just a sample of the services available. For a comprehensive list, click here.

How To Get Started

The NOW/COMP Wavier application process is not nearly as arduous as the Katie Beckett application process. But remember, the waiting lists are long and often takes years to secure services. To download the PDF application, click here.

What to Do When Your Special Needs Child Turns 18 | Financial Support

Special Needs Trust

The financial planning steps you take when your special needs child turns 18 will establish the foundation for your child’s support and well being for the rest of his or her life.

If you make the wrong decision during this transition, it could affect your child well into the future – often when we’re no longer here to care for him or her.

Therefore, as parents of special needs children, it’s important for us to understand our options when planning for our children’s financial future.

Most special needs planning begins with a look into whether a child needs and qualifies for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for support. SSI is a means-based program for people with disabilities and provides a limited monthly cash benefit of about $733 a month, the exact amount depending on the state and whether the beneficiary receives housing or income from other sources.

In and of itself, this payment may or may not mean much for a child’s financial future, but SSI eligibility also comes with a much more important benefit — access to Medicaid. For this reason alone many families, especially those with children who have major medical expenses, pursue SSI benefits despite the program’s severe income and asset limits. SSI can also be the ticket into vocational training and group housing services.

Once a child reaches age 18, she qualifies for SSI based on her own income and assets. In order to receive benefits, the child must meet the government’s disability standard, have less than $2,000 in assets and receive minimal income. Each dollar of unearned income (including any direct payments of cash to a beneficiary, along with additional reductions for in-kind payment for food and shelter) and every two dollars of earned income reduces a beneficiary’s base SSI award by one dollar.

If the SSI benefit reaches zero because of this reduction, SSI coverage ends. Despite these restrictions, an SSI beneficiary needs only a $1 award in order to retain her Medicaid benefits, so careful planning in this realm carries great rewards.

A child who became disabled before reaching 22 years of age can also collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) based on a parent’s work record if either of his parents has worked enough quarters to collect Social Security and is already receiving Social Security benefits or has died. Under SSDI, the “adult disabled child” of the Social Security beneficiary receives a monthly benefit check, as long as he doesn’t perform substantial work, defined as earning more than $1,090 a month. After receiving SSDI for two years, the adult disabled child also begins to receive Medicare, a substantial benefit.

Often, adults who became disabled as children receive SSI benefits until their parents retire, at which point they transition to SSDI, which is usually preferred both because it may offer a higher monthly benefit and because the beneficiary no longer needs to be concerned about SSI’s strict rules on other sources of income and savings. On the other hand, the switch to SSDI can be problematic if it means that the adult child loses eligibility for Medicaid or other programs.

If a child has more than $2,000 in assets when he reaches age 18, rendering him ineligible for SSI, a parent, grandparent or court has the power to create a special trust, known as a “(d)(4)(A) ” or “first-party supplemental needs” trust to hold his savings. Any assets held by the trust do not count against the $2,000 asset limit for SSI, allowing him to qualify.

One requirement of such trusts is that when the beneficiary dies, any funds remaining in the trust must be used to reimburse the state for medical care the trust beneficiary received during his life. Because of this payback provision, planners often encourage trustees to pay for a child’s supplemental needs from a (d)(4)(A) trust before using other assets, in order to limit the state’s collection later on.

Finally, many families create trusts known as “third-party” supplemental needs trusts in addition to (d)(4)(A) trusts.  As long as families fund these trusts with their own assets (never with their child’s funds) and give the trustee complete discretion to distribute the funds for a beneficiary’s care, the funds held in the trust will not count as the child’s assets. Furthermore, these trusts do not have to contain a payback provision, allowing families to place significant amounts of money into the trust without worrying that the government will receive a large portion later on. The trusts can then provide a child with special needs with services and care he may not receive from other sources throughout his life.

You don’t want to wait to plan for your child’s transition out of childhood. We can help you start planning for the future today. Contact DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678-325-3872.

Special Needs Trusts & Estate Plans – When’s The Right Time?

DownSyndromeGirlNow.

As a parent or guardian of a child or adult with special needs, one of our main concerns is what will happen to our loved ones when we pass? Who will take care of them? Will they have enough money? Will they be OK?

And while most of us try NOT think about dying, it’s an important step in ensuring that our loved ones will be protected and cared for upon our passing. Putting into place a special needs trust is something we can do to help ensure that our child or adult ward will be well cared for and have a high quality of life.

Too many times we’ve seen families devastated by the sudden loss of parents or guardians. Now is the time to plan and put into place a legal plan that will help protect your loved ones and their government benefits.

Eligibility for many government benefits are determined based on the resources your child or adult ward holds in their name. If they have too many resources, even by just one dollar, they may not qualify for, or may even lose, benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Even if your child or ward does not currently receive government assistance, he or she may need it in the future. A special needs trust is a way to protect their current resources and future benefits. Through a special needs trust you can leave assets to your child or ward without negatively impacting his or her government benefits.

Government benefits only cover basics such as food, clothing and shelter. Through a special needs trust, a designated trustee for your loved one will be able to provide your child or adult ward with access to things such as:

  • a personal care attendant
  • out of pocket medical and dental expenses
  • vacations
  • home furnishings
  • vehicles
  • hobbies
  • and education.

Jeyaram & Associates has extensive personal and legal experience with setting up special needs trusts and estate plans. Please contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678.325.3872