Newport Beach, CA Special Needs Estate Planning Attorney

 

As parents ourselves, we understand first-hand the joys and demands that come with raising kids. We also know that life sometimes brings new challenges and new opportunities for our children.

When Joshua and Laura Meier’s son, Jack, was 2, they realized he was not speaking like his peers. After getting bounced around between professionals and resource centers, they become frustrated and very concerned that their son needed help, and they could not find the answers they needed.

Shortly after Jack’s 3rd birthday, the doctors discovered he had fluid in his ears.  For Jack, every voice and sound he heard sounded as though he was under water. Fortunately, Jack’s issue was fixed with surgery, but he still needed extensive speech therapy to learn how to speak.

Laura began taking Jack to UCP-OC, a non-profit organization that helps children with all types of disabilities or developmental delays.  This was Laura’s first direct introduction to the world of special needs. As she sat on the couch during Jack’s therapy week after week, she looked around and realized the great needs of the families around her.  She felt that she and Joshua were meant to help these families. Because of this, she developed what has now become the premier special needs practice in Orange County.  

Working with families whose children have special needs is a great honor for our team here at Meier Law Firm. It is also a great responsibility we do not take lightly.  We understand that the families who turn to us for help have so much on their plate.  Many of them have had to make personal and financial sacrifices to provide their child the care and resources they need.  They have had to battle with insurance companies and school systems. They go from one therapy to the next.  On top of everything parents juggle, they deeply worry what would happen to their child and their lifetime care if something happened to them as parents/caretakers.

That’s where we come in.

We do not want you to worry about your child’s well-being or care if anything unexpected happens to you. We can help. Through our comprehensive special needs estate planning services, we help parents:

  • Ensure their child would be raised by who the parents want;
  • Ensure their child would never be placed in the care of strangers during an emergency;
  • Ensure the money left behind would pass to their child without disqualifying them from government benefits;
  • Ensure they can make financial and medical decisions for their child once they become legal age; and
  • Leave behind far more than just money

If you want to have a trusted friend and advisor you can turn to for important guidance during your lifetime, and turn to in your family’s time of need, we extend to you our warmest welcome and invitation to talk with us about how we can help.  We care about your family, and we want to help you protect your child with special needs. We invite you to call our friendly Client Services Director, Bonnie Johnson, at (949) 718-0420 to learn more about how we can help, and to schedule a time to meet with our team directly.

Special Needs Trusts

The best way to ensure your child would receive the care and financial assistance they need if you were to pass away is to establish a special needs trust for them. A Special Needs Trust is a legal document that allows you (and anyone) to pass money to your child with special needs, in a way that would not disqualify your child from receiving government benefits, now, or in the future. The most common Special Needs Trust we establish is called a third-party stand-alone special needs trust.  This type of trust is extremely attractive and effective because there is no government ‘pay-back’ provision, meaning any money left in the trust at the end of your child’s lifetime can pass on to someone you have chosen, and not the government.

Special needs planning in highly technical and involves a lot of moving parts. We can help you understand how you need to structure your family trust, and your child’s special needs trust, so your complete plan is connected and all working together. We also work very closely with advisors who can help you apply for government benefits.

Conservatorships

For many parents who have a child with a severe special need, it seems absurd that the law would automatically deem the child a legal, capable, and independent adult just by turning age eighteen.  Unfortunately, parents must go through a court process called a Conservatorship to receive legal authority to continue to make financial, legal, and physical care decisions concerning their child with special needs now that they are of legal age.

Most parents seeking a conservatorship over their young adult child with special needs request a Limited Conservatorship. Limited Conservatorships are typically reserved for adults with developmental disabilities who cannot fully care for themselves or their finances.

Many parents for whatever reason have not obtained a conservatorship yet over their young adult child with special needs and fear they have missed the opportunity.  Not so. While we encourage you to seek a conservatorship over your young adult child with special needs as soon as they turn eighteen, we can still help you even if they’re older. It is easiest to seek a conservatorship before you face pushback from professionals or institutions who want proof of legal authority to make decisions for your young adult child with special needs. Anytime you can plan before conflict arises, the process tends to be smoother.   

About the Conservatorship Process

A conservatorship is a court process where we ask a judge on your behalf to appoint you as a responsible person (called the “conservator”) to care for your young adult child (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for themselves or manage their own finances.

The process typically takes about 4 months long, and usually involves filing a petition with the court to become the conservator of your loved one, informing your loved one that you intend to seek a conservatorship over them, informing your loved one’s relatives of the sought conservatorship, having a court investigator speak to your loved one, a court hearing/appearance before the judge to consider your request, attending a conservatorship class, obtaining an official court order that grants you the powers of a conservator, and maintenance.

The conservatorship process can be complex in nature, which is why you would likely benefit from our representation and protection.  Our goal is to make the conservatorship process as easy as possible for your family, so you can focus on other things that are important to you or your loved one. We are also well equipped to handle any surprises that may arise during the process.

Additional Resources

The Judicial Council of California has an excellent guide called Handbook for Conservators (http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/handbook.pdf).  It contains a lot of great information about being a conservator, the process, and additional things to consider.

While getting educated on conservatorships is helpful, having us obtain the conservatorship for your child with special needs will ensure the process will be successful, your loved one will have the care they need, and you can focus on your everyday life.

We warmly invite you to contact our friendly Client Services Director, Bonnie Johnson, at (949) 719-0420 to schedule a non-obligatory, no pressure session with a member of our team who can show you your options and how we can assist.