How can I provide support for my special needs child?

One of the most difficult concerns a parent of a child with a disability faces is how to provide the best social, emotional, medical and financial support throughout the child's lifetime. Many complications may affect this decision, such as the type of disability, parental ability to set aside funds for future support, whether the child has received a court-appointed settlement, as well as the child's likelihood of achieving mental competence upon reaching adulthood.

Adults with special needs are individuals over the age of 18 who have a medical condition or disability.

Avoid potential pitfalls

Parental decisions may inadvertently impact the child's access to government programs such as Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. In some cases, uninformed family decisions render their child with special needs ineligible for future state and government support.

Some parents address disability needs by requesting a court-appointed guardian (also called a conservator) to handle financial and medical decisions. Giving total control of the affairs of a person with a disability to another may create a significant opportunity for abuse.

Consider a special needs trust

Unfortunately, parents are often unaware that a different option called a special needs trust would better serve the purpose of current and future protection for a child with potential long-term disabilities.

A professional can craft a valid special needs trust with the appropriate trust laws and parental input and file the trust documents with the court. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, its Office of General Counsel must approve all special needs trusts. When the department grants approval, the trustee then manages the trust's assets in accordance with its terms on behalf of the person with special needs designated as the beneficiary of the trust.

A parent of a child with special needs may want to consider each option carefully to decide which of these various approaches may best fit the particular situation. 

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