What is Special Needs Law?

Although there is no uniform definition of “special needs,” the phrase describes individuals with a wide variety of physical or mental conditions who may require legal support. That support may mean they need protection from ne’er-do-wells who would take advantage, it may mean they need access to public benefits, or any number of other types of assistance. Frequently, parents and grandparents are concerned about how their children and grandchildren will be cared for after the parent’s or grandparent’s death and will want to plan in advance to protect their special needs loved one.

There is no one-size-fits-all way of planning for individuals with special needs. It requires consideration of the child’s strengths and weaknesses, his or her abilities and inabilities including whether decision-making support is necessary. The goal is to enhance the child’s well-being, giving him or her the best chance for a normal, independent life. Because every child is different, every special needs plan will be different as you plan for him or her and those who will assist your child.

The Special Needs Alliance is a peer reviewed group of attorneys who serve the special needs community. They describe special needs law as follows:

  • Special Needs Trusts and Wills. Special needs law attorneys are experienced drafters of special needs trusts (SNTs) and wills for individuals with special needs. Their understanding of this discipline will help to provide long-term financial security and a responsible disbursement of assets through the drafting of wills.
  • Medicaid, SSI and Entitlement Program Eligibility. Personal injury awards and structured settlements may compromise an individual’s ability to access public benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Plaintiff attorneys can partner with a Special needs law attorney to discuss ways to protect those benefits for their clients.
  • Estate, Trust and Tax Planning for Individuals with Disabilities and their Families. Many Special needs law attorneys are also tax professionals who can bring their understanding of law and accounting to clients in need. You can work with a Special needs law attorney to best determine how to maximize deductions without compromising estates and trusts.
  • Financial Planning and Legal Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities. Special needs law attorneys offer a full suite of financial and legal assistance for individuals with special needs, including drafting demand packages, settlement negotiations, Probate Court appearances and motion filings.
  • Guardianships and Conservatorships. Guardianships, conservatorships, and the many available alternatives are a significant part of our members’ practices. Special needs law attorneys are adept at establishing, defending, and administering a guardianship or conservatorship whenever necessary to meet the needs of a family member who is elderly or has a disability.
  • Assistance with Personal Injury/Medical Malpractice Settlements. With a dedication to disability and public benefits law, as well as strong relationships with financial institutions, Special needs law attorneys are well equipped to assist personal injury attorneys in matters involving individuals with special needs.
  • Trust and Estate Distributions and Fiduciary Accountings. Special needs law attorneys understand the complexities involved in distributing trust and estate monies. Their knowledge of tax regulations ensures that funds and fund transfers are handled properly.
  • Estate and Trust Administration. Since Special needs law attorneys are familiar with the unique daily issues faced by individuals with disabilities, they are well equipped to act as third-party administrators for an estate or trust. Their insights can offer peace of mind to families and caregivers.
  • Health Care Decisions and Advance Directives. Special needs law attorneys frequently confront the issue of personal control of health care decision-making as it pertains to clients who are elderly or have a disability. They are familiar with the issues and problems facing these clients as they plan for their long-term health care.

A Nationwide Network of Special Needs Attorneys

EZ Elder Law’s goal is to connect you to experts, so obviously we want you to know about the Special Needs Alliance. The Special Needs Alliance is a nationwide network of attorneys. It is an invitation-only, peer-reviewed group, whose members specialize in assisting individuals with special needs.

At EZ Elder Law, our goal is to answer your questions about all of these issues. We’re just getting started, so give us time. In the meantime, if you have questions, send them to websupport@ezelderlaw.com.


Special Needs Posts

News Roundup 1-21-2022

General News Sources: Oldest person in the US reportedly dies at 115 Supreme Court declines to hear case of Delphi retirees over lost pensions Big pensions are nearly 100% funded, the healthiest they’ve been since 2008 financial crisis Pre-tax vs. Roth 401(k): There’s more to consider than you think Widow’s dilemma: When to claim Social […]

News Roundup 1-3-2022

Estate Planning and Estate Tax News: The simple four step guide for estate planning How to get your affairs in order Making legal plans after dementia diagnosis Opinion: When faced with death, people often change their minds Trust or Will? How to navigate what’s best for your family Basics of Estate Planning and Your Digital […]

Form: Special Needs Planning Guide

The key to successful special needs planning is preparing for the day when parents, grandparents, spouses or others are no longer available to assist the individual with special needs. There are many special needs planning guides out there, but the form below is an example you can use. We also recommend Hal Wright’s book, the […]

Medicare Supplement Policies for Individuals Under 65

In Georgia and 26 other states, insurers that sell Medicare supplement insurance must also sell those policies to individuals under 65 who receive Medicare as a result of disability. Specifically, O.C.G.A. § 33-43-3(g) provides: Insurers offering medicare supplement policies in this state to persons 65 years of age or older shall also offer medicare supplement […]

News Roundup – December 16, 2021

General Sources: Autism Society’s Capital Connection 12-16-2021 (reviewing Build Back Better Act) National Health Care Spending in 2020: Growth Driven by Federal Spending in Response to Covid-19 (Health Affairs) House Advances Build Back Better Act (Health Affairs) Indirect Gift Tax Considerations for 2021 (The Tax Advisor) Smart moves to make with your retirement portfolio before […]

Arc of the United States Virtual Program Library

The Arc of the United States has posted more than 40 video programs designed to provide online activities for individuals with disabilities, their families and service providers. Topics include arts, community and life skills, health and wellness, virtual clubs and more. Click here for more information.

News Roundup – December 8, 2021

General News Sources: NAELA member Janet Colliton, CELA, wrote Eligible Charity Distribution can reduce taxes Lack of special ed teachers keeps some autistic students ill-prepared for college Bob Dole remembered as champion for people with disabilities If you have a child with special needs, here’s how to plan for their life after you pass What […]

Olmstead Decision

The Olmstead case was brought by two Georgia women whose disabilities include mental retardation and mental illness. At the time the suit was filed, both plaintiffs lived in State-run institutions, despite the fact that their treatment professionals had determined that they could be appropriately served in a community setting. The plaintiffs asserted that continued institutionalization […]

Involuntary Hospitalization and Treatment of Involuntary Patients

The procedure commonly referred to as a “1013” is governed by O.C.G.A. Title 37, Chapter 3 (§ 37-3-41 et seq).* The procedure applies to individuals who present a substantial risk of imminent harm to himself, herself or others, as manifested by either recent overt acts or recent expressed threats of violence which present a probability […]

Decision-Making Supports for Special Needs Individuals and Others Needing Assistance

Parents who are looking to protect their special needs children often begin by considering how decisions will be made. Capacity is a continuum, so every special needs child and every family is unique. Essentially there are three models where the individual needs decision-making support. Substitute decision-making, supported decision-making, and court supervised decision-making (guardianships and/or conservatorship). […]

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