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Caring for special needs individuals is complex

New Jersey individuals who have special needs will require the help of a guardian to make necessary life decisions for them regarding their care. People may have special needs either because they were born with physical or mental disabilities, or because they have been in an accident or have suffered a debilitating disease.

In general, those with special needs will qualify for some sort of public assistance based on financial need. This means that eligibility for public assistance programs will depend upon income and assets that the person may be entitled to.

A "life plan" can help family members determine what is in the best interest of the special needs individual, especially with regard to receiving benefits that he or she may be eligible for.

Other important decisions, such as where the special needs person will live and how to care for that person, now and in the future, are basic issues that will need to be addressed.

In order to effectuate a life plan, a team with members covering several different roles will need to be designated, including:

  • A Guardian. The most important role in determining the life plan will be the guardian who will have the ultimate legal power to represent the best interests of the special needs individual. A successor guardian may also be named in the event that the original guardian is unable to carry out his or her duties.
  • An Attorney-in-fact. The special needs individual should also have an attorney-in-fact who holds the power of attorney for financial and health care decisions.
  • A Trustee. If a trust is in effect, then a trustee will be responsible for carrying out the terms of the trust.

Finally, planning for the needs of disabled individuals requires the help of an experienced guardianship attorney. Many issues will arise including legal, tax and financial issues. An attorney can help with establishing the power of attorney, medical directives, drafting special needs trusts, and general help in guiding the guardian with the available public services.

Source: redding.com, "Special care needs complex," Vince D'Amato, Sept. 17, 2011

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