How to Select a Special Needs Attorney
When selecting a special needs attorney, the legal concerns faced by families with special needs are often complicated and emotion-laden. The outcomes can have lifelong implications for a loved one who is vulnerable and may be unable to advocate on their own behalf. Choosing the right special needs attorney makes a big difference, but the prospect may appear overwhelming. What should you look for?
Issues to Consider
“Special needs planning” can potentially involve a wide range of issues, depending on the individual’s circumstances. Long-term economic security is often a major concern, with government programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) playing a big role. For that reason, a special needs attorney should be adept at special needs trusts, ABLE accounts, public benefits and personal injury settlements. They should also be able to handle estate planning for family members wishing to make gifts or bequests to the individual.
A power of attorney and/or healthcare proxy may be important if, once a legal adult, the individual will need assistance with certain decisions. If they’ll need more extensive guidance, some form of guardianship may be called for. You may also want to retain someone who is knowledgeable about special education, long-term care, employment or housing.
The laws and regulations governing special needs planning vary by state and are always evolving. Public benefits are complex, and understanding the interplay of eligibility of standards, agency policy and legal instruments requires experience and a commitment to ongoing legal education.
Although they may be very competent, few general practice attorneys are qualified to do special needs planning. Even a good estate planning attorney may not be well versed in how government programs, special needs trusts, ABLE accounts and personal injury settlements interact. For that reason, you should choose an attorney who spends a large percentage of their time on special needs planning and has done so for a considerable number of years.
(Continued on page 2)