As the parent of a child with special needs, your role as a parent becomes different when your child becomes a legal adult. Although your child may have some or all the same needs for assistance from you, your legal relationship with your child changes when your child turns age 18. Therefore, you need to consider the following five issues before your child with special needs turns 18.
Consider Whether to File for Guardianship or Implement a Less Restrictive Means of Oversight
Filing for guardianship of a child with special needs before the child becomes an adult may or may not be necessary, depending on the circumstances. In some cases, obtaining guardianship is necessary because your adult child cannot independently make financial and personal care decisions. In other cases, less restrictive alternatives may be sufficient.
For instance, a joint bank account with a parent may be sufficient to allow parents to monitor budgeting and spending. In addition, establishing a special needs trust overseen by a trustee may protect significant assets from excessive or unnecessary spending. Furthermore, executing a durable power of attorney can allow an adult with special needs to designate a parent to make decisions on their behalf if they choose. Finally, in some cases, a “Supported Decision Making Agreement” may be an important part of helping an individual with disabilities who has less intensive support needs.
Evaluate Eligibility for Social Security Benefits
Eligibility requirements for Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, in particular, change as an individual with special needs becomes an adult. The Social Security Administration (SSA) automatically reviews an SSI recipient’s eligibility for benefits because the definition of disability for a child is different than that for an adult.
Additionally, the income eligibility requirements for SSI change when a child becomes an adult. When a minor child receives SSI, SSA attributes part of the parents’ income to the child to determine the child’s income eligibility. However, when the child turns 18, SSA measures eligibility based only on the child’s income and resources. Therefore, an individual with disabilities who was ineligible to receive SSI as a child is often newly eligible to receive SSI as an adult.
Obtain Necessary Government Identification
If you have not done so already, you should ensure that your child with disabilities has the appropriate government-issued picture identification, which they will need as adults in many situations. For example, some individuals with special needs may still qualify for a driver’s license. (Note that if the child has a plenary guardianship, they are ineligible to obtain a driver’s license and if they have one already it becomes void once a plenary guardian has been appointed over them. In other circumstances, individuals with special needs should at least have a state-issued picture ID. They may also need a passport if travel outside the country is possible.
Fund Future Financial Support for Your Child With Special Needs
Depending on your financial situation, you may wish to provide future financial support for your child’s needs. However, you should structure this support to avoid endangering the child’s eligibility for public benefits programs, such as SSI and Medicaid. For example, you could create a special needs trust during your lifetime , allowing you, as well as grandparents and other relatives, to contribute funds or leave inheritances to support your child in the future without affecting eligibility for public benefits.
Create a File of Important Information Related to Your Child
Suppose you or someone in the future needs to apply for government benefits, services, or other opportunities for your child as an adult. In that case, having all important information related to your child’s abilities and medical conditions in a single location would be useful. This file could contain contact information for treating medical personnel, medical test results, and medical diagnoses, as well as the results of intellectual testing, individualized education programs (IEPs) that your child had while in school, and similar reports. You also should include any information on past counseling, workshops, jobs, or other activities your child has participated in, whether or not they have been successful. You also might include a summary of your child’s current living situation and daily schedule for those who might be unfamiliar with it in case it becomes necessary for another person to care for your child suddenly. Finally, you should update the information in this file periodically to remain as current as possible. For more information about this topic, see our blog post titled “What is a Letter of Intent?”
Call Rubin Law to See How We Can Help Your Child With Special Needs
Rubin Law is the only Illinois law firm exclusively dedicated to providing compassionate legal services for children and adults with special needs. In addition, we offer unique legal and future planning techniques to meet your family’s individual needs. At our law firm, you can discuss all your needs and objectives with an experienced Illinois special needs trust lawyer.
Call us today at 866-TO-RUBIN or contact us online to learn more about the services we can offer you and your family.