Families who are responsible for the care of a child with cerebral palsy (CP) may benefit from the services of a special needs attorney. With an understanding of the available state and federal benefits, the ability to set up a special needs trust (SNT), and contacts for special needs providers within the community, a special needs attorney helps ensure that your disabled loved one will have access to the care and financial resources required to maintain a specified standard of living throughout their years.
How Are Special Needs Attorneys Unique?
Special needs attorneys have a thorough understanding of the public benefit programs available to CP families at the state and federal level. They are familiar with estate planning procedures and have the ability to assist families in the creation of plans and trusts intended to provide financial security throughout the life of a disabled individual. By working closely with public service providers and organizations within the community, special needs attorneys can also help families develop short- and long-term lifestyle plans which facilitate a sense of dignity and personal choice for all family members impacted by CP.
Helpful Roles of the Special Needs Attorney
Regardless of whether medical malpractice is involved, special needs attorneys can assist in the following areas that may lead to a higher quality of life for children and family members affected by CP:
- Applying and qualifying for public benefits at both state and federal levels
- Providing contacts to special needs providers within the community that can help families obtain supplies, such as Mobility Aids, walkers, important surgeries, and more
- The creation of custom SNTs to provide long-term financial security while maintaining the disabled child’s eligibility to receive means-tested public benefits
- Ensuring SNTs are included in a related personal injury settlement, if one exists, as even large settlements alone may be insufficient to cover the lifelong financial expenses related to the child’s care
- Providing legal advice regarding letters of intent and companion documents for SNTs designed to explain a child’s requirements for care, his or her wishes, and/or needs for the future
- Drafting legal powers of attorney, health care proxies, and/or guardianships intended to balance the disabled child’s need for protection and independence once they reach the legal age of 18, if any are required
- Explaining options to families regarding their choices and rights in special education which begin during early childhood and extend through high school
- Discussing possible public benefits related to career choices, continuing education, and housing options which may be available once the disabled individual reaches adulthood
Important Aspects of the Special Needs Trust
SNTs are essential estate planning tools designed to ensure the long-term care and well-being of children with CP and other disabilities. They are not evaluated as an asset when determining eligibility for means-tested public benefits and can ensure that any personal injury settlements, financial gifts, and/or inheritances involved do not become disqualifying factors for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). When created with care, an SNT can serve to meet the financial needs of a disabled individual for their entire life while taking into account lifestyle choices and providing a specified standard of living.
Choosing a Qualified Special Needs Attorney
Families searching for a special needs attorney must verify that any legal representative they are considering spends a significant portion of their time engaged in special needs planning. The attorney should have a complete understanding of public benefits available at the federal and state levels and should have adequate contacts and resources to direct families toward community support groups. When personal injury cases are involved, the individual should be well-versed in the incorporation of SNTs into the settlement to protect the disabled individuals’ long-term financial future.
Talking with other families, either locally or online through support forums and groups, may lead you to a local special needs attorney you feel you can trust.