Most individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities can manage their own affairs with assistance and guidance from their support system. If guardianship is necessary, it should be tailored to your needs and monitored to protect your best interest. In the eyes of the law everyone is legally permitted to make decisions on his/her own behalf at the age of majority. The only way your parent can continue making decisions for you is to become your legal guardian. Fortunately, guardianship is not all or nothing – you can carve out areas to retain important decision-making rights.
There are three types of guardianship:
1. Limited: Makes decision in only some specific areas, such as medical care.
2. General: Broad control and decision-making authority over the individual.
3. Conservator: Manages the finances (income and assets) of a person with a disability.
Special Needs Trust
A Special Needs Trust can be your primary savings tool for the future. It allows you to develop savings without jeopardizing your ability to receive government benefits.
They can be used for anyone receiving public benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid.
Items to remember when setting up a special needs trust:
• What supports do you need to manage these finances? How will you protect yourself from fraud?
• Will you need a lawyer?
• The Special Needs Trust needs to be separate from any other living trust your family may have.
• The trust is irrevocable in your name once funded, but the trust owns the assets, not you.
You can also look into the ABLE Act, a tax-free savings accounts to cover qualified expenses such as education, housing and transportation.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE) states that its purpose is to (1) encourage and assist individuals and families in saving private funds for the purpose of supporting individuals with disabilities to maintain health, independence, and quality of life; and (2) provide secure funding for disability-related expenses of beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurance, title XVI (Supplemental Security Income) and title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources. For more information, click here.
Other Legal Considerations
Other legal considerations to keep in mind while planning for your future:
- Obtain a state I.D. card or driver’s license from your State
- Register to vote
- Explore options for transportation
Note: It is necessary to obtain legal assistance from an attorney who specializes in disability law; the law is complicated and there are many details to know and understand. Handling legal proceedings is also timely and energy draining. The right attorney will have the knowledge of the law and procedures to resolve your case. There are several pro bono attorneys available.
Alpert Jewish Family & Children’s Service Life Planning Program offers educational seminars, individual consultations, advocacy and emotional support to families who have a family member with any type of disability, including intellectual/developmental disabilities, mental illness and TBI. The program assists families with making viable and appropriate future plans for their family members.
Alpert JFS’ Pooled Trust allows disabled individuals and seniors to place income and or assets that are over government benefit limit requirements for Medicaid into the trust, so that they can qualify for much needed government benefits and be instantly eligible.
FIU Embrace is a university-wide initiative that promotes health, wellness, and overall functioning for adults with developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disabilities (ID), and other neurodevelopmental disorders (OND). It seeks to help these persons lead healthy lives and maximize their individual potential across their lifespan. Services include health care, legal services, and secondary education.
The Arc of South Florida serves the over 1,000 Miami-Dade County citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arc of South Florida provides a variety of programs and services over the life span from therapy, adult day programs, housing, and life planning, advocacy and guardianships and trusts.
Disability Independence Group (DIG) expands opportunities for participation, education, employment and acceptance of persons with disabilities through advocacy, litigation, education and training. Services run the life span, some are fee based while others are not.
Disability Rights Florida is the statewide designated protection and advocacy system for individuals with disabilities in the State of Florida. Disability Rights Florida is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that has authority and responsibility under nine federal grants. Their services are free and confidential.
Dade Legal Aid offers free legal help on a variety of issues.
Legal Services of Greater Miami provides free civil legal services for the low-income communities of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties and is recognized as one of the most outstanding legal services programs.
Dade County Bar Legal Aid and Dade County Bar Free Legal Help Line 305-371-2220
The Guardianship Program manages the affairs of court mandated individuals who have been deemed unable to manage their own affairs. With court orders, our guardians assume certain rights of the Ward to make decisions about many aspects of daily life.