If you have a family member with a disability, you should consider not only their future social, medical, and financial needs, but who will help them navigate these issues. A relatively small amount of work and expense now can save a tremendous amount of stress and cost later on.
Disability, Conservatorship, and Power of Attorney
Parents of children with disabilities may become used to handling all of their children’s medical and financial needs, just as any other parent does. A problem can occur when the child turns 18, as the law assumes all adults are able to make their own decisions, even if they have a disability. The parents may find themselves in a position where schools, doctors, insurance, and financial institutions will no longer allow the parents to authorize services for their adult child who may not be able to understand what he needs.
The answer may be to either obtain a power of attorney from the adult child, or seek a conservatorship. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but either can allow the parent to assist their child with his affairs. This will be a major step in planning for your child’s future.
Health insurance and Social Security
Health insurance can be a major issue for many families, and TennCare (Medicaid) can greatly assist with medical expenses for individuals with disabilities. Often, the easiest way to qualify for TennCare is to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (individuals receiving at least one dollar of SSI automatically qualify for TennCare).
In order to qualify for SSI, it may be necessary to limit the amount of assets available to the individual. A special needs trust can be a very useful tool to set aside money that may only be used to help your adult child, but still allow them to qualify for SSI/Medicaid benefits.
Don’t forget your Will!
Finally, your will may need to be adjusted or rewritten in order to coordinate with the rest of your plan. If you serve as the conservator for your child (or parent) you can nominate someone to take your place after you’re gone. If your child has a special needs trust, that may also affect your will.
Call me for help
Powers of attorney, conservatorships, trusts, wills, and other elements (like life insurance) are all tools used to build your estate plan. Call me at (615) 244-1018 x 102 for help formulating a plan to protect the future of your family.