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Legal and Financial Planning for Adults With IDDs



Planning for the future of adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDDs) is a critical step for parents and caregivers. Doing this thoughtfully provides long-term care, financial security, and legal protection for your child or loved one, even and especially after you are gone. Here are some essential legal and financial special needs planning steps you’ll need to complete — and resources to help you navigate these complex processes.

Legal Planning: Establishing Guardianship and Creating a Will

From a purely legal standpoint, you will need to:


  • Establish legal guardianship. Establishing guardianship of adults with IDDs allows you as a parent or caregiver to make decisions on their behalf when they are unable to do so themselves. This process varies by state, so consulting a lawyer specializing in disability rights is crucial.

  • Create a will and special needs trust. A will is an essential part of your special needs trust planning, as it ensures that your child will be provided for in the way you wish after your passing. A Special Needs Trust (SNT) is particularly important, as it allows your loved one to receive their inheritance without affecting their eligibility for government benefits. 

Financial Planning: Government Benefits and Estate Planning

In order to make provisions for your loved one’s financial stability and health, you will need to:


  • Navigate and maximize government benefits. Understanding and accessing government assistance plans for special needs young adults, including Medicaid and Social Security income and insurance, is crucial. These programs provide key financial support and healthcare services. 

  • Do estate planning. In addition to creating a will and SNT, comprehensive estate planning should include life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Careful planning ensures that these assets support the individual with IDD without disqualifying them from government assistance. Consider consulting with financial advisors specializing in special needs planning to navigate these complexities.

Resources for Parents and Caregivers

All of this research and planning can feel overwhelming, but there are plenty of resources you can use to help you make informed decisions:


  • The Arc of the United States has a Center for Future Planning® program that assists families and caregivers every aspect of planning for an adult with IDDs.


  • The Special Needs Alliance offers tips for estate planning.


  • AARP offers resources and considerations around Social Security programs eligibility, estate planning, and related processes.

Plan for Your Loved One’s Needs With Progressive Lifestyles

Progressive Lifestyles, Inc. is dedicated to providing innovative support services for people with disabilities. Our mission is to provide supportive and caring residential opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Oakland County, Michigan. 


A primary focus of our organization is to interact with the individuals we support through the “Culture of Gentleness” model. We seek to create a positive environment to help them feel safe and valued by maximizing praise, limiting demands, maintaining consistent structure, and reducing stress during transitions. Contact us today to learn more about living the Progressive Lifestyle!

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