Your child may have special needs, but you love and care for them, and you make sure they are provided for. But what will happen when your child reaches the legal age of 18 and is, in the eyes of the government, an adult? This is a situation you need to plan for financially. Ideally, you would do that planning well in advance of your child's 18th birthday and with the assistance of a lawyer who has expertise in this realm. The exact plan will depend on many factors, including your child's abilities and your own financial status. However, there are a few basic steps that most parents end up following.
1. Implement Guardianship
Guardianship is a status that essentially gives you the right to make decisions for your child and act as their guardian even after they enter adulthood. In order to be given guardianship status, you need to prove that your child is not capable of making their own decisions. This can be a bit of a lengthy process that involves getting statements from various doctors, so begin the process ASAP.
2. Apply for Social Security Disability
Since your child presumably will not have an income of their own once they reach 18, they should be eligible for Social Security disability. They may not be able to apply until their 18th birthday is three months away, but your lawyer can at least get you the paperwork and guide you in filling it out so that it's all ready to send in.
3. Establish a Trust
If you want to make sure your money goes to your child and is put towards their care if/when you pass away, then you need to establish a trust. Basically, any money put into the trust while you are alive will automatically be transferred to your child when you pass away. You can specify how the money will be spent. For example, you can specify that it must be spent at a specific care facility where your child can get the services they need.
4. Consider Work Opportunities
If your child will be capable of working, now is the time to pursue educational routes and service job options. Many local government agencies hire adults with special needs. Your lawyer may also be aware of advocacy groups in the area that work to find jobs for these individuals. Even if your child is not capable of working full-time, having them work in some capacity will help improve your financial situation and will also help give them purpose in life.
The earlier you start planning for your special needs child's adulthood, the better. Meet with a lawyer or a company like Life's Plan Inc to learn more about the best approach for your case.