Help for parents who have children with disabilities

Parents of children with special needs are no strangers to years of expensive care for their children. As a
result, a growing number of financial-services companies, lawyers and
financial planners are referring to themselves as “special-needs
planners”, and help parents provide for children with disabilities,
particularly in the event that parents are no longer alive to do so.

These professionals provide guidance for families through the complex
maze of federal and state programs for disabled individuals, and help
establish trusts, insurance policies, retirement plans and
estate-planning documents.  The financial crisis has added urgency to
families’ concerns insofar as how their children’s money will be managed
when they’re not around to oversee it.

More than 41 million Americans, or almost 15% of the population age 5
and older, have some type of disability, according to 2007 Census
survey data. Some 6.2% of children ages 5 to 15, or 2.8 million kids,
have disabilities, the Census Bureau found.

Experts often recommend that families create a “special needs” or
“supplemental needs” trust as the centerpiece of their plan. Such trusts
will provide funds to pay for certain expenses that enhance a disabled
person’s quality of life while not cutting off access to government
benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which
is administered by the Social Security Administration.

There are some other important steps families with special needs
should consider Parents should create power-of-attorney or guardianship
documents for finances and health care, naming themselves as their
child’s agent or guardian when their child turns 18. Without this
formality, parents of kids over 18 may be unable to access their child’s
medical records or make health-care or financial decisions.


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