Are you the parent of a disabled loved one?  Did you know that with the month of March ending, it marks the end of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month? As the parent of a disabled loved one, we know that your loved one has often faced many challenges and these challenges have become more complicated as your disabled loved one ages. From navigating public benefits to ensuring your child has the health care needed on a daily basis to understanding the best way to communicate with your child, you know that this can be a full time job at times.

Now as your disabled loved one ages there may be many legal considerations you need to make for the future. In fact, now would be the time to begin and complete your Florida estate plan. By planning now, you can be sure your disabled loved one has a secure future, even if there comes a time when you are no longer here.

Let us share a few key tips for you to think about and use as you begin your Florida estate planning. As the parent of a disabled loved one, did you know that even if a person is barely able to care for himself or herself, a parent no longer has the legal rights to make financial or health care decisions once the child is deemed an adult?  The first tip is that without proper planning, even someone with a significant developmental, cognitive or mental health disability is legally permitted to make decisions at the age of majority. 

Knowing this first tip, what should you do as the parent of a disabled loved one? A crucial tip we recommend would be to work with a Florida estate planning attorney with a distinct expertise in this area. He can be specifically helpful for guidance and decision-making. Your Florida attorney will be able to talk and advise you about least restrictive alternatives. These are processes that do not require the involvement of the Florida court system and, as a result, can be less costly, time consuming, and less public. Another tip is that your Florida estate planning attorney can talk to you about the lifetime planning documents, such as a durable power of attorney and health care directive. He can also work with you to develop a special needs trust.

An important tip and tool of estate planning is to set up a special needs trust for your disabled loved one. This trust can be set up for people with disabilities to ensure that money will be available for them throughout their lifetime. It can be used for a special needs beneficiary, while not interrupting his or her ability to receive public benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.  Another tip is knowing that there are two main types of special needs trusts. A Third-Party Special Needs Trust holds property provided by someone other than the disabled person.  For example, a parent can place money into the trust and then determine who the money is given to when the disabled adult child passes away. The second type is called a Self-Settled Special Needs Trust and is designed to hold property belonging to the disabled person. In this type of Florida estate plan, there is almost always a payback provision for the public funds received by the disabled person in life.

Our office can help guide a family through long-term care planning for aging parents and loved ones. At David H. Jacoby Elder Law Advocate, P. A., we are focused on providing thorough, ethical, and timely solutions for our clients and their loved ones. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with us.