May is National Elder Law Month. Elder Law attorneys practice a specialized form of law that involves representing, counseling, and providing services that improve the lives of seniors, people with disabilities, and their families. In honor of National Elder Law Month, we are highlighting ACHIEVA Family Trust’s (AFT) Future Planning Project. It is designed to develop the infrastructure and availability of Future Planning resources for individuals with disabilities and their caregivers. The Future Planning Project offers outreach and educational opportunities for caregivers, individuals with disabilities, attorneys and service providers.
Oftentimes, people wait to deal with Future Planning issues in a time of crisis, rather than working with a qualified Elder Law attorney before the crisis occurs. By planning ahead, seniors and people with special needs can help to ensure a better quality of life and that they have the services and support they need as they get older.
The task of planning for the future of an individual with special needs can be intimidating and stressful. Many caregivers of individuals with special needs ask themselves: Who will care for my loved one once I am gone? Where will financial support come from? Who will advocate for him or her? These are common questions, which all should be asked in preparation for when caregivers can no longer due to their own advancing age or death. By planning for their future now, caregivers can establish parameters for the level of care needed in the future and prepare family and friends for their roles and responsibilities.
To begin special needs planning, caregivers should consider meeting with an Elder Law attorney to discuss their individual situation. A competent Elder Law Attorney should be able to assist with Power of Attorney, Living Will, Guardianship, Special Needs Trusts and other estate planning issues. These documents help facilitate the care of an individual with disabilities and will help ensure that he or she will be eligible for public benefits.
If a family member plans to leave an inheritance to an individual with disabilities, they should consider creating a Special Needs Trust. Leaving an adult with special needs an inheritance while they are receiving Social Security Income or Medicaid can result in a penalty period, which may result in loss of medical coverage and other important benefits. A Special Needs Trust can help avoid penalty periods and give supplemental income for housing, food, clothing and additional medical care.
The Future Planning Project is working with families to help determine what choices best fit their particular situation and to customize a future plan that fully supports the individual with disabilities. AFT also offers a Special Needs Personal Planning Guide to assist families is their future planning efforts. This guide helps families ensure that their loved one’s needs are met day to day, on special occasions, and in times of emergency. Visit http://www.achieva.info/future-planning-project to download this free planning tool. For more information and resources, please contact Rebecca Tyers Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (412)995-5000 x589.