5 Things to Think About When Your Child With Special Needs Turns 18

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By Colleen E. Masse

You did it! You made it to 18 and now your child is an…ADULT?!

Yes, that’s right, your little bundle of joy is all grown up and your work is done, or is it? Here are some things to consider as your child reaches the age of majority.

Is your child capable of decision-making?
Once 18, a person has the right to make decisions about his or her finances and healthcare. If you do not think your child is competent to do so, you might consider some type of decision-making documentation. There are a variety of ways to do this that include financial and health decision-making

Does or will your child need state and federal benefits?
At 18, your adult child may qualify for benefits (or different benefits) if he or she has a disability and assets and income that meet the state and federal guidelines. Additionally, there are important Social Security benefits throughout life that are determined based on whether a person has been identified with a disability before age 22. So even if you do not see a need for public benefits at this time, it is important to learn what you need to do to preserve the long term options.

What housing options exist?
Often disabled adults will continue to live with their parents. It is important to consider other options and make sure that your adult child is on any necessary wait lists. When parents pass away and the adult disabled child is living in the home, it can create a confusing and complicated transition in an already difficult time. Thinking ahead as to long term housing options is a gift you can give your child.

Are you getting what you need from school?
As you probably know, schools can provide services through the school year your student turns 21. Even if your adult child has all of the necessary academic credits, he or she may be able to continue in the school system working on transition skills including activities of daily living and job coaching.

Are you protecting benefits by special needs planning?
Keep in mind that any benefits your adult child does qualify for can be jeopardized if the financial qualification standards are not met. This means that if a well-meaning aunt leaves money to your child with a disability, it could disrupt living arrangements, job training programs, medical benefits, and more. Tools like an ABLE Account or a Special Needs Trust can allow family and friends to leave or gift money to your adult child which will enhance his or her life experience instead.

When your child reaches the age of 18, it is important for you to spend some time thinking about these things. You won’t be around forever, and now is the time to make sure you’ve done all you can do to ensure a secure and quality life for your child.

Give us a call if you’d like a hand – our special needs planning attorneys will be happy to help.

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