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Do you have a disabled child about to turn 18? Read this

On Behalf of | May 6, 2024 | Estate Planning

Raising any child is a labor of love – but neither love nor labor ends when the child turns 18 years of age. This is especially true for parents whose children have significant developmental or physical disorders that are disabling.

If your disabled child is approaching this significant milestone, there are some things you should consider:

1. They may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits

SSI’s restrictive financial rules often leave disabled children ineligible for benefits due to the way that parental income is “deemed” to a child living in their parents’ household. That’s basically due to parents’ legal obligation to provide financial support for their minor children. Once your child turns 18, however, that stops – so you may soon need to help your child apply for SSI, Medicaid, disability housing and other forms of public assistance.

2. You do not retain automatic control over major aspects of their life

No matter how obviously disabled your adult child may be, parents lose all legal authority to make decisions for a child once they hit the age of majority. Suppose your adult child can make some decisions for themselves but needs help managing their finances. In that case, you may want to seek their power of attorney for financial matters or a conservatorship. If they need help managing all aspects of their life, you may need to seek legal guardianship over them.

3. It is time to think about a special needs trust

You want to provide for your child long after you are gone – but that can be complicated to do when someone relies on needs-based assistance programs like SSI and Medicaid. If you simply leave them money in your will, they are likely to lose entitlement to those programs for a while. To avoid that problem, special needs trusts can be set up that will allow your adult child to have a more comfortable life without risk to their benefits.

Looking out for your child’s future can be tough – but it’s generally easier to approach the situation with experienced legal guidance.