Malcolm and I have long been aware of the importance of special needs future planning. We’ve always known that at some point we would need to set up a Special Needs or Supplemental Needs Trust for Bethany and start the process of becoming her legal guardians.
Although I do greatly regret not having set up her trust long before now, we’ve just never had the finances to do so. Even though it’s better done late than never at all, I strongly urge everyone and anyone who has a special needs child to set up their Special Needs Trust as early as possible!
Malcolm and I recently attended a workshop on Legal Guardianship and Special Needs Trusts sponsored by a local law firm experienced in handling these matters. We learned a lot of valuable information that I would like to share with you!
A Supplemental Needs Trust is a special fund set up to supplement the government financial and medical programs that special needs individuals are entitled to receive. Any money or property put into this type of trust will not affect the individual’s eligibility for government benefits.
Guardians need to be hyper vigilant in making sure any other source of money or assets for the special needs individual will go directly into their trust if they will be relying on government funding like food stamps, SSI and Medicaid for their food, shelter and medical needs in the future.
The bad news is that setting up a Special Needs Trust in The state of New York will cost about $300 an hour and you absolutely MUST hire an experienced lawyer to legally and properly set one up for you.
The good news is that applying for guardianship in New York CAN easily be a DIY job. You don’t need to hire a lawyer because it’s really just a matter of filling out and filing the proper forms correctly. It is a time consuming process, but will save anywhere from $1200- $3000 dollars!
Apparently it can take many months to actually get approved as a guardian so it is recommended to get started at least one year before the person needing guardianship turns 18.
Please do not wait until the last minute to start the guardianship process because as soon your special needs child turns 18, no matter how low functioning or incapable of making a decision he or she may be, the second they turn 18, they will be considered an independent adult, capable of making any and all decisions for themselves and parents will have no legal say in what happens to them!
If you live in New York and would like to start the guardianship process on your own you can go to NY Courts.Gov, to download the guardianship forms. Most likely other states have their own particular forms available for download also.
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*Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. What I have written is not to be mistaken as legal advice. Please research the laws and procedures on your own to make an informed decision when planning for your special needs child’s future!*
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