Congratulations on your child's upcoming 18th birthday! This is an opportune moment to work on planning for your child's future for when they turn 18, they are no longer legally considered a "child".
It is now time to formulate plans for:
- Implementing guardianship or a less restrictive alternative to guardianship.
- Maintaining eligibility for government benefits, whether you plan to use them or not.
- The future transition from school to adult services.
Here are some specific suggestions for parents to consider once guardianship has been finalized.1. Begin implementation of Guardianship or an Alternative to Guardianship. To read about determining capacity and more information about Guardianship and Alternatives to Guardianship, you may want to review 10 FAQs about Guardianship. Be careful that the guardian will not want to also take on the role of Adult Family Care provider.
Depending on your child's situation, Supported Decision Making (or SDM) may be an option. Helping a person learn decision-making skills by making her own choices with help and guidance is supported decision-making. Many families, support staff, and other advocates are already having conversations and using SDM in their everyday lives. For more information, please take a look at https://supporteddecisions.org/.
If your child is capable of establishing their own legal documents, including a health care proxy, HIPPA documents, Power of Attorney and Power of Advocate, please consult with an experienced special needs attorney to help create these documents. They should be drafted with the same standard of care you would require for your own legal planning documents.2. Be sure there is less than $2000 in your child’s name before applying for government benefits. Depending on the level of assets your child has, you may choose to utilize an ABLE account or a first-party special needs trust to hold these assets and avoid a future spend-down scenario.
3. Apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI ) benefits for your child. Here is a link to the SSI resources on the Social Security website for more information about applying for SSI. If a parent is currently receiving SSI or SSDI, your child may be eligible for Childhood Disability Benefits (formerly known as Disabled Child -DAC Benefits) and receive SSDI based upon a parent's earnings. More information may be found in this helpful booklet from the Social Security Administration, Benefits for Children with Disabilities.
4. Set up a bank account with a parent or guardian as the Representative Payee.
5. Apply for MassHealth premium reimbursement. In Massachusetts, SSI recipients are automatically enrolled In MassHealth. If your child is covered under private health insurance, check to see if you are eligible for premium assistance reimbursement .
6. Apply for Housing Assistance. Place yourself in the queue by filing an application for a Section 8 housing voucher.
7. Review your estate planning documents. Be sure your beneficiary designations are correct and consider naming a nominee to act as a successor and/or standby guardian.
Please contact us to determine if we may be of help in your specific situation.