Choosing the Right Nursing Home

By Martha C. Brown, CELA When a loved one of any age requires the round-the-clock care of a nursing home, it’s important to select one that fulfills both their medical and social needs. Each facility has its own culture, and since this will be your family member’s home, the environment should be a welcoming fit. [...]


Family Members Should Consider Trust Protector Role

By Robert B. Fleming, CELA, Tucson, AZ For family members wishing to participate in the care of a loved one with special needs, the role of trustee isn't always a good match. Family members may not be particularly familiar with investing, accounting and tax returns. They may not have time to handle ongoing disbursements, or [...]


Letter of Intent

The Voice is the e-mail newsletter of The Special Needs Alliance. This installment was written by Special Needs Alliance member Amy C. O`Hara, CELA and her co-author, Sheryl Frishman. Amy and Sheryl are attorneys with the New York law firm Littman Krooks LLP, specializing in special needs planning, trust administration, guardianships, elder law, and estate planning and administration. Amy is an active participant of the Special Needs Alliance publications committee and is a member of the New York State Bar Association. Sheryl's practice is devoted entirely to the advocacy and life planning needs of children and adults with disabilities and their families. She is immediate past President of the Board of Directors of Westchester Arc. Sheryl also serves on the Board of Governors and Legal Committee of NYSARC Inc.


Remember, Transitional Planning Works at the Other End of the Life Spectrum, Too!

By Catherine Goebel, MA, MS Ed., NCG-CGC, ILLP There is much discussion regarding transitional planning for younger individuals with special needs moving from high school to employment, day programming, or additional education. But remember, it is also essential to have discussions regarding retirement opportunities for individuals with special needs. Never before in history have we [...]


Does My Child Need a Guardianship?

The Voice is the e-mail newsletter of The Special Needs Alliance. This installment was written by Special Needs Alliance member Hyman Darling, Esq., a partner in the Springfield, Massachusetts, firm of Bacon Wilson, P.C. Mr. Darling concentrates his practice in estate planning, elder law, probate, special needs and guardianships/conservatorships. Before joining Bacon Wilson, he was a trust officer for several years. A frequent speaker for civic and charitable organizations, he serves on the American Cancer Society National Professional Advisory Committee and the boards of several western Massachusetts nonprofit organizations for persons with disabilities. He serves on the board of directors and has served as Secretary of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).


Developing an Estate Plan for Parents of Children with Disabilities: A 15-Step Approach

The Voice is the e-mail newsletter of The Special Needs Alliance. This installment was written by Special Needs Alliance member Laurie Hanson, Esq., a shareholder in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, elder law firm of Long, Reher & Hanson, P.A. with the help of her law clerk, Christine Jensen. The firm's focus is to provide positive strategies for individuals who are aging or living with disabilities to help them live as independently as possible for as long as possible. Laurie concentrates her practice exclusively in the areas of government benefit eligibility, special needs trusts, trust and public benefit litigation, estate planning, and planning for incapacity. She is the past president of the Elder Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association and is repeatedly named a super lawyer in the field of elder law by her peers.


Thinking It Through

What to Consider When Creating a Special Needs Trust By Katherine N. Barr, Esq. Many parents put off the process of setting up a special needs trust (SNT) for a child with disabilities. They worry about complexity and cost and that they'll be faced with difficult decisions. They may finally be prompted to call an [...]


After the Evaluation . . .

"The child you take home is the same one you brought in." By Chris Kelsey, Board Member, Piedmont Down Syndrome Support Network Parents' first experience of their child's developmental evaluation by "the experts" can be pretty scary. They know their child well, and they know that he or she might not perform. They also may [...]


Caregiver Agreements Can Clarify Family Roles

By Leonard F. Berg, CELA Paying a relative for care of a frail parent or of an adult child or sibling with disabilities is an option that sometimes solves a variety of problems. "Caregiver agreements" can enable an individual with special needs to remain living within the community at the same time that it provides [...]


Transition Planning Can Shape a Life

By Andrew H. Hook, CELA Transition planning, the preparation of a young person with special needs for adulthood, should begin before the student turns 16. Many school divisions choose to begin this planning when the students enters high school, typically at the age of 14. To the extent possible, the student should work with parents, [...]


Don’t Forget Living Space Adaptations When Planning for Special Needs

By Karen Kirks Alexander, AIA, President, KKA Architecture, PA As families and their attorneys plan for the special needs of their loved ones, critical health care is always rightfully at the top of the list of concerns. However, the family and a team of professionals, including attorney, financial planner, life coach and specialized architect, should [...]


Early Intervention Can Change a Life

By Robert F. Brogan, CELA At one time, it was common for neurologists to wait until a child was about five to broach the topic of developmental delays with parents. Since children learn fastest during their early years, that meant that valuable time was lost, during which therapy might have reduced or reversed physical and [...]


To Plan or Not to Plan – That Is Not the Question

By Mohan Mehra, President, The Arc Board of Directors, Washington, D.C. The Arc recently completed a national study of over 5,000 parents, siblings and caregivers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The study, titled FINDS (Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports), asked about their needs and access to a broad range of supports [...]


A Few Thoughts about Special Needs Planning for Mental Illness

By Shawn Majette, Esq. Advance planning is essential in providing for the well-being of an individual with severe mental illness. The shifting presentation of its symptoms, however, demands an adjustable approach. While even a person with severe mental illness may usually be perfectly competent, modest changes in circumstances can rapidly cause a sharp and devastating [...]


The Letter of Intent: Advice for the Future Team

By Brian Rubin, Esq., Attorney and Parent of a 31-Year-Old Son with Autism A letter of intent (LOI), also referred to as a letter of guidance, is a roadmap for your child's "Future Team," the future trustees, guardians, and caregivers (both family and professional service providers). No one knows and understands your child as you [...]


Special Needs Information on the Internet: Proceed with Caution

The Voice is the e-mail newsletter of The Special Needs Alliance. This installment’s author is Edward V. Wilcenski, Esq., a founding partner of the law firm of Wilcenski & Pleat PLLC in Clifton Park, New York. He practices in the areas of special needs planning, elder law and trust and estate planning and administration. A member and past president of the Special Needs Alliance, Ed writes and lectures frequently on issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families.


Transition Planning Should Start Early

By Ann McGee Green, Esq. Transition planning, which readies a young person with disabilities for adulthood, should ideally begin at the age of 14 or 15. At that time, the teen, parents, and educators should discuss the skills that will be needed to support "life after school." Will college be an option? Is employment likely? [...]


Planning for Adult Children with Disabilities

The Voice is the e-mail newsletter of The Special Needs Alliance. This installment was written by Bryn Poland, Esq. and Pi-Yi G. Mayo, CELA, of the Law Office of Pi-Yi Mayo, in Baytown, Texas ( Their practice focuses on elder law and special needs planning, including special needs trusts, Medicare set-asides, and Qualified Settlement Funds. Both are members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the Texas chapter (TX NAELA). Pi-Yi is a Certified Elder Law Attorney, Special Needs Alliance Executive Committee member, and currently serves on the Board of the TX NAELA chapter. Bryn graduated from Washburn University School of Law in 2007 and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Elder Law Committee of the Houston Bar Association. Together they have authored many papers covering topics from long term care insurance to Pickle people (


Decisions Arising with the Death of a Child

The Voice® is the e-mail newsletter of The Special Needs Alliance. This installment was written by Special Needs Alliance member Leonard F. Berg, CELA. A graduate of the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri, Leonard is a solo practitioner in East Alton, Madison County, Illinois. Leonard's prior experience includes service as a public defender, prosecutor, and municipal attorney and he has participated in mental health commitment hearings representing both patients and the state. His practice currently focuses on estate planning, special needs planning and elder law. Leonard has been designated as an Illinois Leading Lawyer. He is involved in a variety of civic organizations and has been a speaker for numerous civic groups.