There is a movement in place to encourage supported decision making, of which I’m a HUGE fan – despite my having recently petitioning for (and being granted) guardianship of my son. However, I’m concerned not enough is being done to safeguard their well-being – specifically ensuring they have things like a basic estate plan, property and casualty insurance, etc.
Why am I concerned? Because in every study I’ve read, more than 50% of Americans (not Americans with disabilities) do not have an estate plan. Here’s one article from AARP, showing just how rampant this problem is. No, not everyone will need a Special Needs Trust; but everyone (in my professional opinion) should have a basic estate plan – consisting of (at a minimum): a Will, Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) & Health Care Proxy. This covers the big (3) – estate, property and person.
Let them decide who to leave their treasures to (Will). The DPOA doesn’t have to be broad, it can be narrowed to just specific financial decisions (like buying/selling property). And the Health Care Proxy is what will allow you (or whoever the individual chooses) to make health care decisions in the event the individual is unable to (unconscious, unable to speak/write, etc). These are basic requirements I encourage EVERYONE to have in place – with or without a disability.
Last on the list – property and casualty insurance. I think this is most often overlooked, although I cannot prove it. But I don’t know of any agencies requiring the people they serve in a Residential capacity to purchase a Renter’s insurance policy. I doubt families think of it, they often have too much else going on; and frankly it’s not something we as a society talk about.
Just about everyone owns something that is important to them. With technology becoming less expensive and providing those with disabilities so much more freedom; it’s less and less uncommon to see young adults without at least a smart phone or tablet. These cost money, often in excess of $200 or more. When you’re living off just Supplemental Security Income ($735/mth), and limited to $2k in assets; there is not a lot of room in your budget to replace anything if the home you’re living in has a busted pipe or your item(s) are stolen.
Even without these limitations, how many of us can honestly say we can replace high ticket items from savings without a second thought? Renter’s insurance policies are usually not very expensive, especially when weighed against the benefit they provide. Landlords are not required to replace items, nor are organizations providing Residential support – be it an Arc or a Nursing Home.
So if you have a child, or relative, over the age of 18 whom you’re helping ask yourself if they have these basic protections in place. Do you? If the answer to either question is “no”, fix it. Although I’m not a huge fan of online legal advice, if you’re constrained by budget using a website like NOLO or legalzoom may be pretty useful. Buyer beware, these sites may not necessarily have the most current forms as required by law, so at least have whatever you do reviewed by an attorney.