April is Autism Awareness Month, which seeks to educate the public about the challenges facing those with autism spectrum disorders. Bloomfield Hills special needs lawyer, Chris Berry explains 3 ways to protect special needs children if something happens to mom or dad.
Bloomfield Hill special needs attorney Christopher Berry
Online PR News – 22-March-2013 –April is Autism Awareness Month in the United States, a time dedicated to educating the public about the needs and challenges facing those with autism spectrum disorders. Bloomfield Hills Special needs lawyer Chris Berry is celebrating this important observance.
According to AutismSpeaks.org, the disorder affects one in 110 children in the United States, with boys being four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed on the spectrum. The prevalence of autism has also increased 57 percent from 2002 to 2006, thus prompting The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to refer to autism a “national public health crisis”.
Yet while autism awareness is at an all-time high, Oakland County special needs lawyer, Chris Berry warns that many parents are still in the dark as to how to make sure their child is physically and financially cared for if mom or dad’s unexpected death or incapacity occurs.
“As much as parents of special needs children hate to think about it, there will come a time when they are physically unable—or perhaps no longer alive—to oversee their child’s care,” warns Berry. “That’s why long-term care plans must be put in place as soon as a diagnosis is made to ensure the child always stays physically and financially protected if the unthinkable occurs,” he adds.”
“As much as parents of special needs children hate to think about it, there will come a time when they are physically unable—or perhaps no longer alive—to oversee their child’s care,” warns Berry. “That’s why long-term care plans must be put in place as soon as a diagnosis is made to ensure the child always stays physically and financially protected if the unthinkable occurs,” he adds.
In his experience as a Detroit special needs lawyer, Chris Berry does admit that the options for long-term care planning are broad and depend on the needs of the child, he explains that parents can simplify the process by starting with these 3 key planning steps:
1.Name Guardians- Berry urges parents to immediately name short and long-term guardians who can oversee their child’s care if something unexpectedly happens to them. Without such designations in place, the child could end up in a lengthy custody battle—or worse—be placed in foster care if the unthinkable happens. Berry advises parents to think outside the box and focus on finding someone whose love and dedication to the child closely resemble their own. Finally, parents should give copies of their designations to the guardians themselves, as well as the child’s school, babysitters and even the neighbors so everyone knows exactly who to call if a crisis strikes.
2. Set up a Special Needs Trust- A special needs trust is a legal tool that ensures a disabled child’s health care and living needs are taken care of if something happens to mom or dad. Berry explains that while many parents have good intentions of leaving their child life insurance benefits or other assets in a will if they die, doing so could jeopardize their eligibility for Social Security or Medicaid in the future (which is often the only health care option available). Instead, a trust helps to ensure that the child receives such financial benefits without actually having assets in their name—thus leaving all government benefits intact.
3. Build a Team of Support- According to Berry, it’s never too early to begin building a team of trusted caregivers and advisors who can immediately step in and help the child if a crisis occurs. Team members may include the child’s legal guardians, a trusted doctor, financial advisor, estate planning attorney and dedicated family or friends. Building such a team now also helps to ensure you have the right people in place, as opposed to someone who will prey upon your child’s disability in an emergency.
“Parents of special needs children must go into planning with the mindset that their child will require a lifetime of care,” says Berry. “Fortunately, by starting with these 3 key steps, parents will make tremendous progress in ensuring their child is physically and financially cared for in their absence.”
Christopher J. Berry, JD, CELA, VA Accredited Attorney is a partner with Witzke Berry Carter & Wander, PLLC in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Born in southeast Michigan, Mr. Berry has devoted his career to the practice of estate planning and elder law. His practice is unique in that he practices Life Care Planning and employs an Elder Coordinator who worked at the Area Agency on Aging, has a background in Gerontology and has served as a nursing home administrator. Through legal planning and social work his practice is dedicated to helping seniors have the best quality of life possible, as opposed to most elder law attorneys who only focus on moving assets around.
Attorney Berry is one of only a handful of Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Metro Detroit area. Any attorney can say they are an “elder law” attorney, but unless they have passed the CELA exam and have passed the peer review, through the National Elder Law Foundation, then they may not be an expert in the area of elder law.
Mr. Berry has been rated 10.0/10.0 (Superb) by Avvo, an unbiased national ranking system for attorneys. His attorney peers have selected Mr. Berry as a Top Lawyer for Estate Planning by Detroit Business Magazine and Best Lawyers of America. In addition to these honors, he is a recipient of the Spirit of Detroit award for his work and dedication to the Metro-Detroit community.