Month: November 2017

Understanding the Guardianship Process For a Loved One With Disabilities

If you are caring for a loved one with disabilities who is currently under the age of 18, the idea of

them reaching adulthood may seem overwhelming. As their loved one, you likely want to continue being able to care for them and look after them, yet certain laws may make that seem difficult.

The good news is, there are programs in place that are designed specifically with special needs adults in mind, that allow parents, loved ones and caregivers to continue to provide care even when that child turns 18. This is all through a process known as guardianship. Guardianship is a legal means of protecting any adult who cannot take care of themselves or act in their own best interest.

There are many parents who assume that they will be able to continue to act as their child’s legal guardian during their entire life. However, that isn’t the case. Even when a child does not have the capacity to make informed decisions, legally any child, even one with a disability is presumed competent unless otherwise determined. This determination is made after a competency proceeding, otherwise the parent will no longer legally be able to act as their child’s guardian.

There will be a hearing before a judge as part of this process and you will need to present evidence of the need for guardianship. You must also show that the proposed guardian, whether it is a parent, sibling or other loved one, is fit to be appointed and capable of handling these responsibilities and that no one of higher priority is available. For example, in some families, an older sibling or aunt may step in and act as a guardian if the disabled child’s parents are no longer available.

During the hearing, there will be two attorneys involved. One will represent the person asking the court to appoint a guardian and one representing the person being cared for. Witnesses such as the child’s doctor or friends and family may also be called to provide additional information.

Guardianship is a great way for parents to make certain they are protecting their child from those who may exploit them in the future and their inability to make informed decisions. In order to make sure that people aren’t abusing the system and that this legal protection is reserved only for those who truly need it, the process of appointing a guardian can be a bit complicated. The best way to make sure that you are following all of the appropriate steps is to work with a licensed attorney who specializes in this specific type of law.

Special needs planning can seem daunting. However, if you understand what guardianship is and how it works in today’s legal world, you can make sure that you are taking the steps necessary to keep your loved one safe and protected. The expert attorneys here at Hegwood Law Firm specialize in guardianship law and can help you through every step of the process, so your loved one can get the legal protection they need.

Making sure your special-needs loved one has an appointed guardian can guarantee their well-being long into adulthood so they can continue to live the happy, care-free, loving life that they deserve.

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Essential Tips for Talking to Your Loved One About Your Estate Plan

Creating an estate plan for you and your spouse can often be a challenge. You want to make sure that your loved ones are taken care of when you are gone, yet discussing this delicate topic can often be both difficult and emotional. However, no matter how uncomfortable, it is essential that you discuss your estate plans with your loved ones before you pass and chances are your loved one will be very happy you did.

  1. Hold Your Discussions in a Comfortable Setting

You need to discuss your estate with your loved one in a setting that is best for you and your family. For some people, who are dividing everything equally, a large family meeting is best. Others who have personal or specifics bequests may want to sit down one-on-one with each family member. There is no wrong way to do it; you just have to do what you feel is right for all parties involved.

  1. Try to Stay Focused on the Topic at Hand

If there are two topics that most people don’t like discussing, it would probably be death and money. Unfortunately, these are two topics that fall under the umbrella of estate planning. There is no handbook for talking about estate planning, but the more straightforward and upfront you are about the topic, the more comfortable everyone will be. It can be easy to feel emotional when talking about a future without you in it, but the less emotional you are, the easier it will be for your loved ones to contribute to the conversation.

  1. Make Sure to Discuss Caregiving

A lot of estate planning comes down to dollars and cents, but there are other topics that you will need to discuss with your family members, particularly related to elder care. Power of Attorneys, money, driving and living arrangements are all categories that need to be discussed. Who is going to make healthcare decisions for you if you can’t? This needs to be addressed early on.

Talking to your children about how they and their siblings should handle caregiving can be a delicate issue, but it is better for your family in the end. You can get some peace of mind knowing that your intentions are clear and that there will be no confusion among your children or family members should they need to make these difficult decisions.

  1. Make Sure to Cover What is In Your Will

There is a misconception among some that the contents of their will should be kept private until they pass. However, discussing your will with your family members can be helpful for all involved so they are prepared and there are no surprises later on. This can be difficult if you have blended households or multiple generations of family members as keeping expenses, responsibilities, and benefits all equal can be a challenge with so many involved. Take your time when making a plan, so you feel everything is fair and then sit down individually, or with groups of family members to discuss your decision.

  1. Remember There is No Wrong Way to Divide Assets

Dividing assets is one of the most delicate parts of estate planning, even more, delicate than dividing responsibilities. Some people emphasize fairness and leave equal shares and to every family member. Others prefer to make one-of-a-kind personal gifts to every child and grandchild, according to what they feel is best. There is no wrong way to divide assets and sometimes family members may be surprised by or not agree with your approach—however, it is always up to you and what you feel is best. If a family member doesn’t agree with you, don’t feel pressured to change your plan.

While discussing topics such as finances and wills can sometimes be uncomfortable, make sure that you take the time to talk about these important topics with those you care about the most. If you ever have questions about estate planning or how to talk to your loved ones about your plans, make sure to consult an expert attorney for advice. The professionals here at Hegwood Law Group are always available to sit down and talk to our clients about the intricacies involved in estate plans.

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Preparing an Inheritance for Your Child With Disabilities

When it comes to estate planning, many parents find there are a number of considerations they will need to take in order to make certain their children are being taken care of. For parents who have a child with disabilities, the process can be even more daunting. Most children with special needs require a very specific type of care that only their parents have been truly familiar with for the majority of the child’s life. Most adults fear that their child with a disability will not receive the care that they require once they pass, which is why proper estate planning is so important.

Inheritances

One of the biggest questions that parents of children with disabilities tend to have revolves around inheritances. While an inheritance is a natural part of estate planning, there are a few different reasons that some parents may not want to leave their child with a disability with a standard inheritance. Some worry about others taking that money from their child, while others may want their children to qualify for Medicaid and other specific benefit programs. However, in order to qualify for Medicaid, special needs children cannot have more than $2,000 in their name.

Another approach that some parents take is to disinherit their special needs child and instead give the money to a family member who promises to care for that child. While one solution, it has huge pitfalls and is a solution that needs to be thought out in great detail first.

Special Needs Trusts

The good news for parents with children with a disability is that there are actually trusts available now that are specifically meant for families in this particular situation. This special type of Trust is created as part of your estate plan and can actually dictate that the money cannot be used for necessities like clothing, medication, food, and shelter so that your child will still qualify for the different government programs that they may need down the line. The money can, however, be used for programs and amenities that don’t fall within these government programs such as entertainment, travel, and recreation.

With these Trusts, you can write a specific letter of intent to either a caregiver or even a facility or group home, so it is clearly detailed how the money is meant to be utilized. There will also need to be a trustee that is responsible for overseeing the money in the Trust and of course, you will need to make financial preparations to make certain the trust has been funded.

If your child inherits without a trust, it still may be possible for a disabled individual under the age of 65 to remain eligible for Medicaid even if they get a direct inheritance or similar financial gain. This is allowed only if the gain is placed is a qualifying Trust, also known as a “payback” Trust.  This trust will pay back the state and federal government for any Medicaid benefits that were paid on the child’s behalf before any family will inherit.

While no parent ever wants to think about their child with a disability being in a position where they need to survive without them, it is important to plan ahead for these types of issues with proper estate planning. Here at Hegwood Law Group, we specialize in helping families find the best legal solution needed to make sure their children are getting the financial assistance they require. If you need help getting started, contact Hegwood Law Group at 281-724-3737 to schedule a consultation and learn more about how these financial solutions may help you and your family.

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