How SNA Can Help Families

Why use a Special Needs Alliance attorney? Because our attorneys understand how complicated it is to help someone with disabilities build a life that’s grounded in dignity, personal choice and financial security. They stay abreast of ever-shifting state and federal public benefit systems, they are active members of the special needs community and they can connect you to local services. A special needs attorney is a life care partner.

Life Care Planning

Benefit Planning

Early intervention, childhood disability benefits, Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income…and more. Public benefit programs are often the foundation upon which your child’s care plan will be built. These public benefits differ dramatically from state to state and frequently change. Navigating these systems is complex. Special needs attorneys can advise you concerning your family member’s eligibility and can guide you through the application process.

Special Needs Trusts (SNTs)

Special needs trusts are estate planning tools to hold funds that complement needs-based government benefits. Personal injury settlements, inheritances or well-intended financial gifts can disqualify an individual with disabilities for the public programs that form the bedrock of their care plan. Assets within an SNT are not considered in establishing eligibility, so they remain available to pay for services not otherwise covered and for the large and small pleasures that enhance quality of life. Special needs attorneys can also advise families on choosing an appropriate trustee to handle this significant responsibility and can give counsel on properly administering the trust so that public benefit eligibility is maintained.

Personal Injury Settlements/Structured Settlement Negotiations

The proper handling of funds resulting from a personal injury or malpractice suit can make a huge difference to an individual’s financial security. Special needs attorneys can advise clients on the best allocation between lump sum and structured payments, and what role an SNT may play in protecting eligibility for government benefits.

Special Education

Children with special needs are legally guaranteed a “free and appropriate education” in the least restrictive environment possible. Special needs attorneys can assist clients in obtaining the necessary evaluations and in negotiating with their local school district in an “Individualized Education Plan” to meet their youngster’s needs.

Transition Planning

The passage into young adulthood can be challenging for individuals with special needs. When they turn 18, they’re automatically assumed to have the capacity to make financial, medical, educational and other important decisions. If your loved one will continue to need assistance with such matters, you should examine guardianship and power of attorney options. A special needs attorney can help you determine the appropriate balance between maximizing personal independence and protective oversight.

As your child prepares to leave high school, important choices will need to be made concerning continuing education, career, residential options and many other factors that will shape your family member’s future. The public benefits available to adults differ significantly from school-based services. Special needs attorneys can pose questions, point to resources and suggest alternatives.

Estate Planning

Parents tell us that their single biggest worry is what will happen to a family member with special needs when mom and dad can no longer act as advocates and caregivers. Deciding what portion of your estate to bequeath to a family member with disabilities and appropriately integrating your will with an SNT will be an important means of building your child’s independence and financial security. It may also be appropriate to designate a guardian to assume many of your responsibilities, in which case, you should also create a letter of intent, which outlines your wishes for your child’s future and contains important details that will guide their care for your child.