Families of children with autism and other special needs may face overwhelming day to day struggles with their children, from finding non-irritating clothes to food that they’ll eat, to an appropriate educational setting. In addition to these daily challenges, parents also must take steps to ensure their children’s future. There are legal avenues that parents can use – such as long-term planning, guardianship and special needs trusts – to protect their children.
LONG-TERM PLANNING – When a person with autism or other special needs reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in Pennsylvania, there are legal changes that affect them and their families. Parents no longer have the legal rights that they were afforded throughout their child’s youth. As the person is now an adult, his or her parents no longer have the legal right to access confidential health and school records. Before your child with autism or other special needs turns 18, we suggest that you meet with us to help you make critical decisions about your child’s future.
GUARDIANSHIP – In the eyes of the law, even a person with a significant developmental, cognitive, or mental health disability is legally permitted to make decisions on his or her own behalf at the age of majority, which is 18 in Pennsylvania. The only way parents can continue making decisions for their child is to become their legal guardian. Guardianship is a court-ordered arrangement in which one person is given the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of another person whom a court has deemed to be “incapacitated.” The guardian’s decision-making authority extends to all areas specified by the court. Depending on your child’s needs, there are different types of guardianship. When you meet with the attorneys at Vinsko and Associates, together we will determine which type of guardianship is best for your situation.
SPECIAL NEEDS TRUSTS. Parents of children with autism and other special needs may want to set up a Special Needs Trust which can ensure that money will be available for a child throughout his or her lifetime and that such money will not impact their access to other benefits. A trustee, often the custodial parent, is designated to manage the Trust for the benefit of the special needs beneficiary.
With all that parents of children with autism and other special needs have to contend with, their legal rights and responsibilities shouldn’t be another worry. Call Vinsko & Associates and let us help you with these very important decisions.