The age 18 milestone is difficult for parents, as they no longer have the legal right to make decisions or receive medical, educational and financial information for their children. For parents of children with special needs, this can be especially problematic.
Parents need to be proactive and seek help to ensure that their disabled child qualifies and remains qualified for the benefits they will need for the rest of their lives. Important steps to take as your child approaches this age milestone include:
- Apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for your child through Social Security.
- This provides a monthly financial benefit for them and makes them eligible for Medicaid, which provides healthcare benefits.
- Applying for and being “determined” disabled by Social Security before age 22 provides for increased financial benefits and Medicare for the child when their parent collects Social Security and at a parent’s death.
- If your child has the capacity to sign documents, obtain a durable power of attorney (DPA) and patient advocate designation (PAD).
- These forms allow a disabled child to appoint individuals to assist them with financial decisions and health, welfare and well-being decisions.
- If your child does not have the capacity to sign a DPA and/or PAD, apply to have a guardian appointed.
- The court will appoint a guardian for a disabled individual to assist with their finances and with health, welfare and well-being decisions.
- Update your estate planning documents to include a third-party supplemental needs trust (also called a special needs trust) to hold your disabled child’s inheritance and protect their benefits.
- Remember your child will no longer qualify for government benefits if they have resources above $2,000 in their name. If you direct your child’s inheritance into a trust, your child can continue to qualify to receive the benefits they need, while allowing the trust to disburse funds for any qualified needs not covered by the government benefits.
- If your disabled child will continue living with parents or family, familiarize yourself with in-kind support and maintenance rules to protect the child’s government benefits. This includes:
- Establishing a lease agreement for their living arrangements.
- Understanding how payment of services for the child will affect their benefits.
- Understanding how giving cash to the child will affect their benefits.
- Become acquainted with ABLE accounts (Achieving a Better Life Experience) which allow your child and family members to save money that your child can use toward their disability-related expenses without diminishing their government benefits.
- Become acquainted with True Link pre-paid credit cards your child can use. Understand how using these can affect benefits and weigh the pros and cons of using a True Link card versus money from an ABLE account.
Your Warner attorney can help you work through these steps efficiently and avoid common traps, providing you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing your child has the benefits they need to live their best life.