How Does SSDI Back Pay Work?

How Does SSDI Back Pay Work?

There may come a time when you are not able to work because of a condition that prevents you from doing so. If that is the case, you may qualify for financial assistance from the Social Security Administration. Social Security Disability Insurance is accessible to you if you were once able to be employed in the past but now cannot work for a minimum of one year.

What Is Social Security Disability Insurance?

Social Security Disability Insurance disburses benefits to you or family members who paid Social Security taxes through work earnings and worked long enough, and recently enough. It’s required that you have gained enough work credits to be eligible for SSDI. You are also required to have paid into the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, known as FICA, during the time you were working. The amount of work credits needed to be eligible are dependent upon age. For instance, if you are 50 years old, you will need 28 work credits meanwhile another person who is 40 years old will need 20 work credits. These benefits are paid if there is a medical condition that is anticipated to persist for at least a year. Once you are approved, the monthly payments can be used for your essential living needs such as rent/mortgage, utilities, and medical expenses.

What Back Pay Is

When you are owed back pay, it refers to the SSDI you would have acquired if your claim was approved promptly. Most claims for SSDI are denied at least once and involves a tedious process that can last for months, or even years. Once you are approved, you will obtain the SSDI benefits that you are entitled to. You will start receiving back pay for disability that goes back to the date of the disability onset. Due to a mandatory five-month waiting period, once you have been approved, you will not receive any payments until the five months have elapsed.

How You Will Receive Your Back Pay

All beneficiaries of SSDI benefits must have their payments directly deposited into their bank accounts. In order to obtain back pay, you must make sure that you have a bank account for the payments to be deposited to. If you were disabled for an extended period of time before you applied for disability, you may qualify for retroactive Social Security Disability payments for a timeframe of one year.

Retroactive Payments VS Back Pay

It’s important to understand that back pay is different from retroactive payments. Retroactive payments are paid out for up to the preceding 12 months prior to applying for SSDI benefits if you can demonstrate that you had a disabling condition throughout that time. Back payments are paid out to you up until the date you filed a claim to receive benefits.

How the Social Security Administration Determines Back Pay

The determination of back pay is associated with the date your disability claim was filed as well as the date the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines the established onset date. The distribution of the back pay is dependent on your approval for SSDI benefits. In some cases, you may have a long waiting period if your case needs to be determined by an administrative judge.

What Back Pay May Be Spent On

You may be receiving a lump sum payment that could add up to a substantial amount. You may have been in a financially tight situation while waiting for the Social Security Administration to approve your claim. It’s recommended that you utilize the back pay for basic living expenses such as rent, utilities, food, and health care. It’s also wise to pay off your bills. If you have extra money left over, you probably shouldn’t rush to go on a shopping spree. You may want to consider establishing a bank account that draws interest. Additionally, you may want to deposit the funds into an account in which you have easy access to just in case there is an unexpected emergency such as home repairs, car repairs, or a medical emergency.

Qualifying for SSDI

You may be eligible for SSDI if you are no longer able to work due to a medical condition. In order to be eligible, you need to medically qualify based on the guidelines set out by the Social Security Administration. There is a blue book that has categories for various systems of the body. For each system, there is a listing for the conditions the particular body system has that are debilitating. You will discover the types of medical benchmarks that are required to medically qualify for benefits. This includes treatments, test results, and other medical criteria. You can work together with your doctor to arrange any tests that are required to qualify.

For instance, if you have cancer, you must meet the benchmarks for a cancer listing. The listings for disability are separated based on where the cancer stems from. Each cancer has its set of criteria that are required to be met.

Understand the Difference Between SSDI and SSI

Many people get the terms SSDI and SSI mixed up. SSI is a disability program that is needs-based. Even though you still need to show medical documentation in order to medically qualify, you are also required to meet certain income criteria which include evidence of household income and the amount of people living in the household. Additionally, you are required to provide documentation of all assets such as stocks and bonds, cash, real estate, and bank accounts. There are resource limits that are maxed out at $2,000 per person and $3,000 when it’s a couple.

The Application Process

It’s recommended that you review the Adult Disability Checklist to round up the information and documents that are needed to properly complete the application. After you have gathered the needed items on the checklist, you will complete and submit the application. The application will be reviewed to ensure that you meet a few basic requirements for SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration will analyze whether you put in enough years of work to qualify and evaluate any ongoing work-related activities. Your application will be processed and your case will be sent to your state’s Disability Determination Services office.

What Happens After You Apply?

After the Social Security Administration has received your application, the appropriate department will review it and contact you if there are any questions or if there are additional documents needed to process the application. You should be on the look-out for a letter that will be mailed out with their decision. If there were other family members included in the application, the Social Security Administration will notify you if they may be eligible to receive benefits.

If You Are Denied

There are plenty of reasons why claims could be denied. It’s not uncommon for disability claims to be denied upon an initial review. One of the most common reasons why claims are denied is due to inadequate medical evidence. You must demonstrate that you do not have the ability to work because of a disabling condition to qualify for disability benefits. A critical aspect in determining whether your claim is successful or not hinges upon medical records from your physicians. If your claim was denied from a previous application, you have an increased chance of being denied again without furnishing additional evidence. Additionally, your records will be under review to ensure that you are adhering to your physician’s recommended treatment plan. If you do not follow your physician’s recommended treatment plan, you could be denied for failure to cooperate. This is because the department that is reviewing your claim cannot correctly conclude if you are kept from working due to your condition.

Get Assistance from a Disability Attorney

Applying for Social Security Disability can be a daunting task with a long approval process and a high potential of being denied. If you have a disabling condition that has rendered you unable to work and you would like to apply for social security disability benefits, it’s wise to work with an experienced disability attorney. By working with an attorney who deals with these types of cases, you have an increased chance of your disability claim being approved.

Lilac City Law knows the Social Security Disability process. Our team will guide you through the disability process so that you can gain a better understanding of what to anticipate. Contact Lilac City Law to discuss your case.

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What Happens to My Child’s SSI When They Turn 18?

What Happens to SSI When my Child Turns 18?

For many purposes, adulthood starts, and childhood ends when one reaches the age of 18. And just like many things at this point in life, SSI benefits can change as well. According to the policies set by the Social Security Administration, claimants who have filed for childhood benefits will only receive them until they reach the age of 18. While it is unlikely that a disability has disappeared by the time your child is age 18, you may be wondering if they will still qualify for some form of benefits from the SSA. The answer is likely, yes. 

 

Full-Time Students

One exception to the cessation of childhood disability benefits on a child’s 18th birthday is if the claimant is still, or has become a full-time student. In this event, you will not need to have your child go through the redetermination process, as long as you can prove they are a full-time student in either an elementary or secondary school. To verify the student requirement, you will need to notify the Social Security Administration by providing them with a completed statement of attendance that will need to have received approval by authorized school officials. Once student status has been verified, they will continue until the child graduates or reaches the age of 19, whichever event comes first. 

 

Redetermination of Eligibility

At the age of 18, a redetermination of disability is required to determine if the claimant who recently qualified under childhood disability would still have a condition that would qualify them under adult disability. The reason for the need for redetermination is simple. There are two major differences between childhood and adult disability determinations. 

 

Definition Differences

One major difference is the way that childhood disability is defined versus adult disability. Children are not expected to be employed at that age, so this is not a factor in the definition of childhood disability. A childhood disability will require marked or severe impairments in learning, task completion, self-care, social interaction, manipulating objects, or poor health.  For an adult to qualify for disability, they will need to be able to demonstrate an inability to work as a result of their disability. 

 

Medical Differences

Illness and disability can have different effects on a child versus an adult. A child that now has an illness or disability may not respond the same way to it as an adult as they did when they were a child. Because of this, the Social Security Administration has separate lists of impairments for adults and children, referred to as Part A and Part B, respectively. While there are some impairments that will fall into both categories, the criteria may be different for judging disability. The children’s listing also contains several conditions that are not applicable as an adult, such as certain growth impairments. 

 

Filing for a Redetermination of Benefits

The process of filing for a redetermination of benefits is similar to the original application process, though it is typically shorter. Once your child reaches age 18, your local social security office will contact you via mail with a notification letter. After receiving the letter, you will need to schedule an interview with you, your child, and the social security office to determine eligibility. After the interview has been completed, that information, along with other technical and medical information, will be reviewed by the Bureau of Disability Determination. The determination will be made using this information along with an assessment of the future possibility of employment of the claimant. You may be asked to take your child to a medical appointment to verify that the medical information presented is updated. After all of the information is reviewed, you will receive a letter from the Social Security Administration regarding their decision.

 

Eligibility Requirements for Adult Disability

To meet the requirements for adult disability, your child will have to qualify using their own income and assets, instead of yours. To meet the government’s disability standard, they will need to have a minimal income and less than $2,000 in assets. Once they are determined eligible, the amount will be determined by the earned and unearned income they receive. For every dollar of unearned income and every two dollars of earned income, there will be a one-dollar deduction of the SSI amount. In any event that the amount of the benefit reaches zero, the benefit will end. Though it is important to note that even if the beneficiary has one dollar of SSI payment, they will still be eligible for Medicaid benefits, so if healthcare coverage is necessary, you should plan accordingly. 

 

Adult List of Impairments

While there is a long list of impairments that can qualify an adult for disability, most will fall under one of the 14 main categories including:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions resulting in a loss of function
  • Special Senses and Speech issues, which can include blindness and deafness
  • Respiratory disorders that result in restriction or obstruction
  • Cardiovascular conditions which affect the proper functioning of the heart
  • Digestive system issues, such as liver dysfunction
  • Genitourinary disorders, such as diabetic nephropathy
  • Hematological disorders, such as bone marrow failure
  • Skin disorders, such as chronic infections and burns
  • Endocrine disorders, such as pituitary gland disorders
  • Congenital disorders, such as Down syndrome
  • Neurological disorders, such as ALS and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Mental disorders, such as schizophrenia
  • Cancers depending on the extent of movement
  • Immune system disorders, such as HIV

 

What Can You Do if Assets Are a Concern?

If your child has more than $2,000 in assets when they turn 18, which can make them ineligible for SSI, you may want to consider creating a special trust to hold their money. A “First Party Supplemental Needs” trust can be created by a guardian of the court, parent, or grandparent. Any assets that are put into this trust will not count towards the $2,000 in assets that a beneficiary is allowed to have. The only catch to this type of trust is that if there are any funds left in it when the beneficiary dies, then the balance of the funds will go to the state as a form of reimbursement for the medical care costs the state provided when they were alive. 

Another Option is a “Third-Party” supplemental needs trusts. This involves a family fund where the assets are never in the SSI beneficiary’s name, but the trustee will be able to distribute these assets to fund the beneficiary’s care. In this case, the funds would not count as the beneficiary’s assets, nor would any balance revert to the state in the event of their death. This can help to provide a disabled adult with the money they need to handle any care that is not covered by other services. 

 

What Happens if the Redertermination Results in a Denial?

In the event that your redetermination comes back denied, it does not mean that the process is necessarily over. As with any original claim, you will have the right to appeal the decision. The Social Security Administration acknowledges that many appeals will result in continuances, which means you still have a decent chance of being approved even if you were initially denied. 

 

What is Section 301?

If denied during a redetermination, you may also be eligible to continue to receive SSI payments under section 301. Applicants can be found eligible under Section 301 benefits if all of the conditions listed below are met. 

  • They must be currently participating in vocational rehab services, support services, or employment services.
  • They must have commenced the program in the month before their benefits had ended.
  • They must participate in the program for at least two months.
  • The Social Security Administration must determine that the completion of the program will reduce the chances of the claimant having to return to disability benefits. 

Benefits under Section 301 will continue to be paid until the Social Security Administration has decided that continued participation of the program is no longer leading to a decrease in the likelihood of returning to disability payments, or the claimant has ceased participating in the program. 

 

Can My Child Become Eligible for SSDI?

If your child was disabled before 22 years-old they may be able to collect SSDI based on the work record of their parents. To be eligible, the parents will have to have worked enough quarters to collect their Social Security and they are already receiving it. A young adult may also qualify if their parents have worked enough quarters and have died. The child that is now a disabled adult will receive the benefit if it can be shown that they can’t perform any substantial work that earns them more than $1090 each month. They would also qualify for Medicare after two years of claiming benefits. This can be the preferred option for many as there are not as many strict rules as SSI on sources of income and assets and the benefit tends is often higher. 

When your child turns 18, they may still qualify for SSI benefits as long as they meet SSA’s financial requirements and fall under the classification of an adult impairment that prohibits them from maintaining employment. Be proactive and schedule a meeting with the SSA office as soon as you receive a notification that your child’s disability benefits are going to expire so that you can begin the redetermination process as soon as possible. If your redetermination has been denied and you need assistance with the appeals process, contact Lilac City Law to schedule a consultation.

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Can you receive Social Security Disability Benefits for Social Anxiety?

Can you receive Social Security Disability Benefits for Social Anxiety?

While many people are affected by high levels of stress and anxiety in their daily life, there are others who suffer from anxiety on a regular basis. Anxiety is a mental condition that is marked by extreme fear and worry in the midst of everyday activities that can lead the person to seek complete control over everything that goes on during their day. In some cases, this anxiety can be so severe that it interferes with your daily life, inhibiting your ability to function in a workplace and secure gainful employment. When this occurs, you may be entitled to seek out social security benefits as long as your anxiety meets the medical and other qualifying requirements.

Symptoms of Severe Anxiety

It is easy to become stressed and anxious when you are in a situation that is out of your control. But for those who suffer from severe anxiety, they have an extreme fear of public humiliation and judgment of others. This level of anxiety can be either mildly or extremely disabling for the individual. In fact, people who suffer from extreme anxiety are likely to underperform or underachieve so that they can fly below the radar and go unnoticed by others. They also may try to protect themselves by limiting their activity, sometimes even confining themselves to their homes to avoid public places such as grocery stores. 

When severe anxiety occurs, it can have major effects on an individual’s physical and mental behavior. Some of the symptoms of severe anxiety include:

  • Flushing in the face
  • An increased heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tense muscles
  • Inability or difficulty speaking
  • Irrational fear in common situations
  • Avoidance of people or places
  • Problems concentration or focusing
  • Fear of crowds
  • Feelings of extreme panic
  • Feeling faint
  • Hypervigilance
  • Difficulty staying on task
  • An inability to perform activities at home, work, or school

Anxiety disorder is most often diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist, once they have completed a full evaluation. After diagnosis, they will often use cognitive-behavioral techniques and therapies, counseling, and medications to reduce symptoms. While these can minimize symptoms, sometimes the side effects of the medication can cause problems as well. 

Medical Evidence Needed to Support an Anxiety Disorder

Anyone who gets anxious from time to time may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but for your anxiety to be classified as severe and possibly grounds for disability, there are some medical parameters that will need to be satisfied first. Your doctor or psychologist will need to diagnose you with a specific form of anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can be classified as:

  • General Anxiety Disorder: Which includes symptoms of anxiety during daily activities with no underlying cause specifically to blame. 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This is marked by stress related to recurring thoughts about a past event that was stressful.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Which can involve obsessing over and repeatedly performing simple tasks. 
  • Panic Disorder: This is marked by a physical response even when no actual danger is present.
  • Agoraphobia: This can involve the avoidance of public places and even result in self-confining to one’s home. 

To be approved for disability, SSA will look for evidence of both psychological evaluations and testing to show that the diagnosed case is present. It is also important that disability is made aware of what the possible ramifications of your illness would be if you were in a workplace. Would you have a hard time concentrating? Would you avoid customers and coworkers? Would workplace stress trigger your condition? Would you experience limited functioning if your anxiety was triggered?

Qualifications Under Social Security’s Listing of Impairments

In order to qualify for disability, your doctor’s diagnosis will have to characterize your anxiety as causing three or more of the listed conditions.

  • Difficulty concentrating or staying on task
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Muscle tension
  • Becoming easily fatigued

Once three or more of the above characteristics have been established, it will need to be proven that your anxiety inhibits normal function. You will need to have demonstrated extreme impairment in one of the following areas listed below or a serious problem in two or more of the areas.

  • Problems comprehending, retaining, or using information, inhibiting your ability to follow instructions, exercise good judgment, or learn new things.
  • Difficulty interacting with others, preventing you from exercising socially appropriate behavior.
  • Problems staying on pace or concentrating on a task, leading to your inability to complete them.
  • Difficulty adapting to change which can cause behavioral problems.
  • Problems with self-care.

If you have already been in a protected and structured situation such as intense therapy or receiving an immense amount of psychological support, these issues may be diminished, but that does not mean you won’t necessarily qualify. If our doctor determines and has documented support that the above conditions are likely to exist if you are removed from your protected setting and put into real-life situations, you may still qualify. 

Medical Eligibility Requirements

There are also medical eligibility requirements that will have to be met in order for you to qualify as disabled due to anxiety. You will need to be able to meet these Blue Book listings regarding your anxiety disorder as well as have historical documentation of all your associated symptoms that could limit your capability to work. There are different requirements based on the specific disorder you are diagnosed with, but you will be required to meet at least two of the following criteria below.

  • Demonstrated restrictions in the activities involved for daily functioning.
  • Severe difficulties functioning in a social setting.
  • A significant difficulty in maintaining pace, concentration, or persistence.
  • Experiencing repeated episodes of decompensation.

To qualify, you will need to have experienced these difficulties and been unable to work for at least a twelve-month period. You can either apply for Social Security Income or Social Security Disability dependent on your current income levels and what is included in your work history. 

Residual Functional Capacity

There are cases where your anxiety disorder would not be considered to be severe enough to prohibit you from working, but may still limit you. In these instances, you will be given a “mental residual functional capacity” statement from the Social Security Administration. This statement will detail the type of work that you are capable of performing and how often you can perform these tasks. For example, a diagnosis of panic disorder could lead you to concentration problems as your panic will take over in certain situations. Your statement may prohibit you from performing complex tasks but allow you to perform shorter takes that are simpler and can be learned in less than a month. They can also put more restrictions in place, such as no contact with the general public and limited contact with other employees. 

In this situation, you would likely be denied benefits as you can still perform minimal tasks, but if your panic attacks were to become more frequent, limiting your concentration level to around eight hours, then it is likely that you would be unable to perform any type of employment and could be awarded disability. 

In short, to be awarded disability benefits, your residual functional capacity deemed by the SSA will need to limit you from working any jobs that you have previously had, and from performing been simple tasks available to unskilled workers in the United States. 

Making a Disability Case fo Anxiety

Even if you meet the requirements, obtaining Social Security Disability for an anxiety disorder can be a long and difficult process. Since there are no definitive medical tests to diagnose anxiety, it can require months of medical history, a significant amount of testing, and multiple assessments for a diagnosis to be accepted by SSA. Additionally, the process can take months to complete, and there is a higher percentage of applications that are denied initially. This does not mean that you should avoid applying for fear of denial. If at first denied, you can go through an appeal process that can allow you to address the concerns in the denial and prove your case.

Since the application process can be long and difficult, and often result in the need for an appeal, you will have the best chance of securing benefits if you seek out the services of an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. The experienced attorneys at Lilac City Law know the ins and outs of the disability process and can help to better prepare you for the case. By better understanding the process and what to expect, you will have a greater chance of obtaining the benefits you need. Contact Lilac City Law today to discuss the particulars of your case. 

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Understanding Guardianship for Young Adults with Disabilities

Understanding Guardianship for Young Adults with Disabilities

As a parent, friend, or family member of a young adult with a disability, you are intimately aware of your loved one’s capabilities and limitations. This person may require assistance in making important decisions that impact their quality of life, health, education, or financial wellbeing, among others. While acting as an informal advisor provides some level of support, there may come a time when a legally-binding arrangement better serves your loved one’s best interest. 

Securing a legal guardianship to act on a young adult’s behalf involves working through a complicated court process. Common missteps typically cause everyday people to suffer delays, refile cour documents, and even start the process over. Compounding the problems associated with the dense bureaucracy, there are no one-size-fits-all guardianships for young adults. At Lilac City Law, we work with loving families every day to navigate the guardianship process. If you are considering a young adult guardianship, these are things you can anticipate during the process. 

What You Need To Know About Guardianships

Caring people outside the legal professions often believe that securing a legal guardianship is their only option to protect a loved one. This is not necessarily the case. Several alternative options may adequately resolve any concerns or needs. Washington State’s guardianship statutes require other legal pathways to be considered. Moving forward with a young adult guardianship filing could prove a waste of time and resources unless the following items are considered first. 

Education Representative

In Washington State, an automatic Transfer of Rights occurs when a minor turns 18 years old. In instances of minors with disabilities, the school district may notify parents, guardians, and the student before this transfer. It’s not uncommon for loved ones to promptly file for guardianship rights as the age of majority approaches. But retaining rights over a young adult with a disability can have unforeseen negative results. For instance, a guardianship could impact the person’s right to vote, among others. Becoming a legally designated educational representative limits authority and decision-making power. But it also leaves the individual’s other rights intact. 

Payee Representative

Guardianships for young adults tend to deliver broad decision-making powers. But when a loved one only needs assistance in niche areas, becoming a legal representative can have advantages. Representative payees typically field revenue such as Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of the person and oversee their bill-paying obligations. This legal designation limits oversight to financial matters without impacting other rights. 

Power of Attorney

A somewhat broader solution may be gaining a power of attorney. This allows loved ones to make informed decisions on financial, medical, and other essential life issues for the young adult. This designation is typically voluntarily transferred by the young adult.  

Wide-reaching alternatives to a young adult guardianship also include items such as a special needs trust, and vulnerable adult protection orders, among others. In all likelihood, the court will ask to what degree alternatives were considered or pursued before agreeing to a guardianship arrangement. If you have not thoroughly explored these possibilities, your guardianship petition could be rejected. That means the time invested would be wasted as the court sends you back to square one. 

Filing Young Adult Guardianship Paperwork

A young adult guardianship attorney can help decide the most straightforward pathway for protecting your loved one’s best interest. Having an attorney who routinely works through this process, your petition will be strengthened by the fact alternatives have been explored. Articulating the reasons why a guardianship provides the best possible protection and care will help avoid the court denying the petition and forcing you to start all over. 

The time saved by diligently navigating the process can help avoid a gap between when the person turns 18 years old, and the guardianship begins. Although the guardianship tends to be rigorous and requires complicated filings, it can be expedited in a matter of months if no errors or missteps occur. That being said, these are standard documents that are required to be filed with the court, among others. 

  • Petition for Guardianship 
  • Guardian ad Litem Order
  • Notice of Petition 
  • Declaration of Service
  • Order Appointing Guardian
  • Declaration of Proposed Guardian
  • Guardian Oath
  • Mandated Guardianship Training Declaration 
  • Standby Guardian 
  • Guardianship Inventory

Failing to file accurate petitions supported by thorough documentation ranks among the primary reasons why everyday people suffer delays in the young adult guardianship process. Financial concerns often drive the decision to try and negotiate the high legal standards and bureaucracy. Working families are often pleased to discover they may qualify for no-cost court filings and guardian ad litem services. Enlisting the help of an experienced guardianship attorney can save you time, as well as money. 

Common Steps To Secure A Young Adult Guardianship

Although the documentation required to petition the court for a guardianship can be quite stringent, judges understand that a vulnerable community member sometimes needs the support of loved ones. The court proceedings are designed to deliver that support while ensuring the young adult’s best interests are served. 

Commonly acceptable reasons to petition the court include a disabled minor nearing the age of 18, inability to provide self-care, or manage finances. It may also be necessary to intervene when a disabled person suffers from neglect or is being exploited. If you are seeking a young adult guardianship, these are procedural elements you can expect.

  • Guardianship Training: If you are a non-professional or “layperson” in legal jargon, the court will mandate that you undergo guardianship education. Training sessions are generally free of charge and can be conducted online. The coursework typically takes about two hours and outlines a guardian’s duties and responsibilities. The court will require a declaration of completion. You can save time by completing the sessions before petitioning the court. 
  • Petitioning For Guardianship: The paperwork mentioned above will need to be completed and supporting documentation compiled. With the help of your guardianship lawyer, a guardian ad litem candidate may be included. Having a diligently prepared filing can save substantial time and avoid common setbacks.  
  • Court-Appointed Guardian Ad Litem: At the initial court hearing, a guardian ad litem is usually appointed. This certified professional will conduct an independent review and provide the court with a report. You can expect an in-home visit, and additional professionals may be included. It’s not unusual for a social worker to accompany the guardian ad litem. These professionals consider the environment and ask questions to understand whether the proposed guardianship is in the young adult’s best interest. 
  • Guardianship Hearing: During the formal hearing, judges ask specific questions to determine whether a guardianship is in the person’s best interest. It’s not unusual for a judge to bring up alternatives, and your legal representative will need to articulate why the petition before the court is the best option. Parties who are against the guardianship may also speak at the hearing. Your lawyer can cross-examine any opposing parties and making arguments on your behalf. 
  • Letters of Guardianship: Should the court rule in your favor, a formal document will be issued that transfers decision-making powers to the guardian. The letters may also outline certain restrictions.

The young adult guardianship process does not necessarily have a specific timetable assigned to case review and completion. A diligently drafted petition with supporting documentation can save you a significant amount of time. And, having completed to guardianship training in advance helps facilitate the process. Other important time-related issues include being available for the guardian ad litem visit and potential follow-up questions.

Working With An Experienced Guardianship Attorney Saves Time

Although the court system can be challenging to negotiate for everyday people, lawyers who secure vital guardianships for community members have the skills and experience to expedite the process. Along with common pitfalls such as misfiled court papers and inadequate supporting documents, laypeople sometimes don’t indicate the scope of guardianship. Judges may be willing to order a limited guardianship rather than agree to full and unfettered decision-making authority. 

When everyday people try to petition the court on their own, these are the types of issues that get them bogged down. By working with an experienced young adult guardianship law firm, your case can flow through the court system seamlessly. Having a qualified legal professional to answer technical legal questions helps everyday people overcome potential setbacks and keep the process fast-tracked. 

If you have a minor child approaching 18 years old or are considering securing a guardianship for other reasons, Lilac City Law provides determined legal services that support our vulnerable community members. Contact our law office and schedule a young adult guardianship consultation today.

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Social Security Disability: What Does it Mean When Your “Appeal is Under Review?”

Social Security Disability: What Does it Mean When Your "Appeal is Under Review?"

Every day, people who try to navigate the Social Security Disability bureaucracy quickly discover it can be challenging. The claims process tends to be tedious and a single misstep can result in setbacks or outright denials. For people who need these critical disability resources to sustain a reasonable quality of life, attempting a DIY approach to navigating the Social Security Administration can be risky. 

Filing claims, submitting necessary medical documents, and even arriving on time for scheduled appointments can prove difficult. If you have submitted a Social Security Disability claim, been denied, and are in the midst of an uncertain appeals process, it’s hard to know where you stand. When you finally receive paperwork that indicates your status is “Appeal Under Review,” it’s time to get legal help. 

At Lilac City Law, our team of legal professionals delivers determined advocacy to get good people the decision you deserve. If you received an appeal under review notice, these are essential things you should know. 

What You Need To Know About “Appeal Under Review” 

It’s common for the majority of individually filed Social Security Disability claims to receive prompt denials. The first wave of review typically runs around 120 days, and the conventional wisdom leans toward the Administration rejecting most claims out-of-hand to reduce unnecessary payouts. The fact your legitimate claim has been denied is not necessarily cause for alarm. But a robust effort is usually required to gain favorable reconsideration in the next phase. 

It’s imperative that filers promptly resubmit a claim because the next stage can run approximately 90 more days. If your first response came at about 120 days and you’re about to tack on another 90, that could total a 7-month waiting period. You could then also be forced to appeal to another rejection. We urge anyone who has received the first denial to secure legal support immediately. But if you have already received an Appeal Under Review letter, it’s crucial to take proactive measures. 

What Does Appeal Under Review Mean For Your Claim?

Many people experience anxiety and worry they will not receive the benefits necessary to ensure a secure future. The “under review” status only seems to add to the sense that financial security is beyond your control. Keep in mind that claims under review can be turned around in your favor. 

In some cases, appeals under review simply means that the Administration has assigned an examiner to verify the accuracy of specific information and documentation submitted. It’s an open secret that the federal government tends to move slowly and efficiently. So, don’t feel disheartened by the review status of your claim. Even if you are denied on a first appeal, there are steps a determined Social Security Disability attorney can take on your behalf.

How To Appeal Unfavorable Decisions

Although the Social Security Administration tends to be challenging to navigate and rigorous about documentation, there are several appeals layers that deserving people can utilize. The Administration typically hands-off cases to examiners who are not necessarily involved in initial reviews or unfavorable decisions. This allows those who appeal to enjoy a relatively clean slate about your case file. However, each appeal can come with a more stringent review, increased documentation, and compelling arguments are typically needed to overcome past denials. There are four levels of appeal an experienced attorney can explore on your behalf.

1: Reconsideration

If you recently received the initial under review letter, in all likelihood, your case is stuck in reconsideration. This entails a complete review of your application by Administration personnel who were not involved in the initial rejection. This fresh set of eyes checks the documentation submitted with the filing, and petitioners can include new evidence to support the claim. 

One of the key things to keep in mind is that the Administration may deny claims because examiners believe you are no longer have a disability. If your application is based on a condition that could improve, resubmitting medical information that details you still are unable to sustain gainful employment may be critical. 

2: Administrative Law Hearing

Should the Appeal Under Review status result in an unfavorable decision, the next phase will require a formal hearing. This process involves presenting your case before an administrative judge. This impartial judge will have had no part of any other previous review process and will notify you about the time and place of the hearing. Typically, these hearings are held within 75 miles of the filer’s residence. 

The Administration now takes a more active role in arguing against overturning its examiner’s decision. It’s not unusual for the federal agency to request more information or clarity about evidence submitted on your behalf. Many times, it can be in the person’s best interest to provide as much concise evidence as possible in an effort to sway the judge to recognize the reasonableness of your claim. 

During the hearing, the administrative law judge often asks pointed questions of you, witnesses, and any experts that your legal team calls. Video conferencing has also emerged as a sometimes preferred hearing method given filers have disabilities and the residual effects of the pandemic. Hearing methods vary from case to case. 

3: Social Security Appeals Council

Favorable reversals are often gained at the administrative law hearing. But sometimes the judge may not fully grasp the compelling reasons why your situation requires Social Security Disability benefits for relief. When that happens, the Social Security Appeals Council can be petitioned to review how the case evolved, supporting evidence, and previous decision-making. When process errors, evidentiary uncertainty, or technical mistakes in law have negatively impacted your position, the Appeals Council may take up the case. To get the Appeals Council to take the matter under review, a powerfully persuasive case must be put together. Keep in mind, your attorneys are fighting to overcome past mistakes and get you the ruling you deserve. If the Council fails to render a favorable decision, you still have one last appeal. 

4: Appeal To Federal Court

The last resort is to step outside the confines of the Social Security Administration’s appeals process and file a motion on your behalf in federal court. Judges at this level enjoy unique expertise about technical law deficiencies. In many instances, legal acumen tends to persuade federal judges based on missteps by the Administration and appeals examiners. 

Obviously, the letter you received that indicated Appeal Under Review ranks among the early possible steps to gaining a favorable decision. While the letter certainly heightens worry that you may be denied vital benefits, you may receive a quick and favorable decision without having to fight the case all the way to federal court. 

Other possibilities disabled persons may find helpful is the fact that your attorney can request the Administration keep any current benefits active during the appeals process. If your benefits have been reduced or suspended in error, formal requests for restoring payments can be promptly submitted on your behalf. The Administration commonly honors such as requests, and a savvy lawyer could get any back payments you missed. 

Work with An Experienced Social Security Disability Appeal Attorney 

If you are among the upwards of 70 percent if Social Security applicants who are routinely denied benefits, it’s essential to contact a law firm with experience resolving these specialized cases. The Social Security Administration typically limits appeals to a 60-day window from the day you receive a determination letter. The process of resolving Social Security Disability rejections and the rigorous technical process can be overwhelming for those outside the legal sector. That’s why it’s imperative to contact a law firm determined to fight to secure your rightful benefits. 

At Lilac City Law, we deliver the determined legal services that earned us a reputation as the Northwest’s leading disability law firm. We understand that our valued community members can be no match for powerful government bureaucracies that may never know you as a person. Such anonymity may allow them to dispassionately deny necessary Social Security Disability benefits. That’s why we fight each and every day to ensure our clients are fairly treated and get you the decision you deserve. If you received an Appeal Under Review notification or are considering filing a claim, contact Lilac City Law today. 

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Should I Nominate a Health Care Agent Today?

Should I Nominate a Health Care Agent Today?

Having a disability can be challenging. Not only will you have to face a number of daily challenges, both mental and physical, but you will also have to deal with a number of legal issues, as you may need assistant making decisions in the future. Challenges that you may face include financial management as well as managing your own health care. Medical assistance is a necessity for everyone, and due to the high levels of privacy and various needs for consent, navigating the health care system can be difficult, These difficulties can be compounded if you face challenges that make it difficult for you to understand the paperwork and make decisions regarding it. That is unless there is someone appointed to make these decisions on your behalf. That is where the duties of a health care agent come into play.

What Is a Health Care Agent?

A health care agent is a person designated to make health care decisions for you. This can be for reasons such as your being too sick or debilitated to make these important decisions for yourself. It could also be that you difficulty making decisions when your mental competence is too low to understand the information set before you so that you can come to an informed decision. 

The agent should understand medical jargon and be willing to liaise with you nurses, doctors, and other medical teams to discuss treatment options while taking into consideration your wants and needs. This way, you will have an advocate in your corner, making sure that your wishes are being closely followed for every aspect of your treatment. 

It is important to note that even though you have assigned a health care agent, you will still have control over your medical decisions. You can have your health care agent work with your medical team, or you may choose to work with them yourself unless it has been decided by doctors that you are not in a condition to communicate your medical decisions properly or if the court has deemed you incompetent for making these types of decisions. 

What Authority Will a Health Care Agent Have?

A health care agent will have the power to make decisions on your behalf in terms of health care, but they will not have decision-making ability in work issues, finances, or any other matters that fall outside of the scope of health care. They also will be restricted from making decisions that go against your expressed instructions and wishes. In most situations, your health care agent will also not have the ability to give consent for certain conditions such as commitment to a mental institution or electroconvulsive type of therapy. 

When designating a health care agent, you can also set limits on what their decisions can entail and also what period of time or specific medical treatments you would want their assistance utilized for. 

What You Should Consider When Appointing a Health Care Agent

Sudden illness and disability can happen in an instant, and if you have a cognitive impairment, it may be difficult for you to make good decisions on medical issues even when you are healthy, let alone when they have become injured or have fallen ill. Since time is of the essence, having a health care agent ready and willing to make those decisions on your behalf can make the process go smoother and ensure that you get treated in the manner that is in accordance with your wants. 

But this is not the only reason to have a health care agent in your corner, willing to fight for your needs. Another primary reason why having a health care agent is critical is, if no one is in place, it can fall to family members to make decisions on your behalf. Even the closest families can become divided when it comes to making medical decisions on behalf of a loved one. With infighting going on in the family, it can take longer for treatment decisions to be made and sometimes even lead to possible legal battles. In the end, the decision that is made may not be what you had wished or intended, even though a family member thought it would be best. For those without close family, important decisions will be left in the hands of family members who may know little about your situation and desired medical decisions. 

How to Choose the Right Person as You Health Care Agent

Since your health care agent will be making medical decisions that can affect your life, it is critical that you choose the right person to represent you in these matters. First and foremost, you will need to choose someone that you can trust. You will be discussing with your agent what you want in terms of your medical decisions and will want to make sure that the person you choose will stick to your wants and best interests. Start with a list of people close to you that you can trust and then ask yourself the following questions about each of them to assist you with making your final decision.

  • Are they willing and able to make the decisions you choose, even if they disagree with them?
  • Do your wants and needs align with their morals?
  • Can they keep their emotions out of the decisions, so that they can make the right choice?
  • Are they strong enough to advocate for you and your wants to medical officials and even family members? 
  • Are they comfortable with medical information so that they can ask the necessary questions needed to make an informed decision?
  • Are they confident enough to stand up to medical staff and get answers and clarification to questions, so they fully understand the situation?
  • Will they be able to make quick and informed decisions even if situations change rapidly?

When you find a person that you trust and your answer to all the above questions is yes, they are likely a good candidate to be your health care agent.

What Type of Person Can Be Selected as a Health Care Agent?

While most commonly, people will look to their family members to choose a health care agent to make medical decisions on their behalf, you don’t have to choose a family member for this position, and sometimes it is not advisable. You may automatically think of family because they love you and you can trust them, but for some family members making hard decisions regarding your health can be difficult fo them, and they may have a lot harder time keeping their emotions and wants out of the decision, sometimes ending in a result that you did not want or intend.

Sometimes it is better to choose someone who may care about you but have less of an emotional connection. Friends are a good option because they do not have to interact with family members on a regular basis, so they may be less likely to be swayed from the decision they know should be made. Some people may opt to choose more than one agent, so there is a collaboration when it comes to decision-making, but this is not always advisable as it can lead to delays in treatment due to disagreements. Another good option may be choosing someone comfortable with medical terminology so they can better understand and communicate with doctors and other medical staff.

How to Finalize Your Health Care Agent Choice

Once you have determined the best person to assist you with your medical decisions, you will need to have some hard conversations where you communicate with them your wishes and desires when it comes to certain medical treatments and concerns. If they agree to represent your interests in the medical decisions you have requested, now it is time to finalize your decision. You will need to officially name them by filling out a health care proxy document. You will need to have witnesses to the document signing, and it is advisable to have it properly notarized in the event a legal issue arises. 

Get Help with Your Health Care Agent Designation

If you or a loved one is disabled and wants to learn more about what goes into designating a health care agent or would like guidance on what it entails and how to file the proper paperwork, Lilac City Law is here to help. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and enjoy the peace of mind or having a health care advocate in your corner for when you need them most. 

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What is a Ward of the Court?

What Does it Mean to be a Ward of the State

People become wards of the court, or state, because they are unable to take care of themselves at some level and require certain legal protections.

This legal designation is also commonly called being a “ward of the state” and may apply to minors as well as adults. It’s also important to understand that a ward is not necessarily someone who has no family or support system within the community. Rather, they may require enhanced protections beyond what a legal guardian or family can provide. Other salient issues involve otherwise responsible legal guardians not wanting to bear the sometimes-onerous financial burden associated with minor children or adults who unable to maintain self-care.

To say that the process and issues involving wards of the court are complicated would be something of an understatement. In an effort to provide loved ones with a working understanding of what it means to be a ward of the court, we hope the following overview proves useful.

How Does One Become an Adult Ward of the Court?

As we are acutely aware, not all adults have the ability to care for themselves adequately. Whether that stems from a disability, age, or illness, the courts can provide enhanced protections to ensure ongoing treatment, care, and financial oversight, among other items.

An adult ward of the court may have no remaining family members to step up as a legal guardian. Others may indeed have loved ones that are willing to act as their guardian but are not necessarily in a position to shoulder burdens such as financial support as well as caregiving. Still, other wards have court-appointed guardians connected with government agencies. These professional organizations may include the following.

  • Social Services
  • Human Services
  • Mental Health Agencies
  • Health Departments
  • Departments for Aging Adults

In order to become an adult ward of the court, that person must undergo a review process that may include assessments by medical and psychiatric professionals who support a claim the person is not competent to successfully maintain minimum health, safety, and financial standards. In the vast majority of cases, the courts will hold a hearing and secure written and oral testimony from experts, friends, and family members, among others. If deemed incompetent, the individual may enjoy the legal protections afforded by the court.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the courts do not necessarily impose guardianships. People who recognize they are seeing the signs of diminished capacity to maintain their health, well-being, and estates, can work with an attorney to voluntarily petition the court. In these instances, the potential ward of the court can have substantial input about the parameters of the guardianship and who the court appoints to that station.

In other cases, a friend or family member can petition the court on someone’s behalf, even in cases of involuntary guardianships. These cases can be emotionally taxing for family members, particularly when your loved one does not recognize their failing state. In these involuntary cases, the ward generally has little or no input about issues such as oversight of their well-being or the designated guardian. The court imposes what it believes is in the best interest of the ward.

In other cases, a friend or family member can petition the court on someone’s behalf, even in cases of involuntary guardianships. These cases can be emotionally taxing for family members, particularly when your loved one does not recognize their failing state. In these involuntary cases, the ward generally has little or no input about issues such as oversight of their well-being or the designated guardian. The court imposes what it believes is in the best interest of the ward.

What Does an Adult Guardian Do?

A court-appointed guardian is often tasked with overseeing healthcare and financial planning decisions. It’s not uncommon for the guardian to work closely with the ward through the process and move forward with the person’s full consent. These are common items a guardian works with the ward.  

  • Place of Residency
  • Mental Health Treatments
  • Physical Health Treatments
  • Bill Payments
  • Personal Affairs
  • Estate Planning
  • Last Will & Testament

If the ward has significant financial resources, the court may also appoint a conservator with some expertise to manage their estate. The guardian, on the other hand, advocates on behalf of the ward’s best interest in all other matters and generally submits periodic reports to the court.

How Long Can an Adult Remain a Ward of the Court?

Once a person has been deemed a ward of the court, that legal designation is usually only removed in the event they are no longer hindered. In some instances, the court may dismiss the guardianship because it’s in the person’s best interest. Although the latter tends not to be the norm, people who have recovered from a physical or mental health condition may see the ward designation lifted, and the guardianship discontinued. In the overwhelming majority of cases, wards of the court remain so until they pass away.

When Does A Minor Child Become A Ward of the Court?

When children are deemed wards of the court, the circumstances and prevailing issues can be quite different. For example, when the court appoints a legal guardian, it is more often not the case that they become financially responsible for support. In these cases, guardians are also not generally liable for other expenses associated with the child. However, when children become wards of the court, parental rights are usually terminated.

This is an important distinction for minors and parents alike to understand. That’s because there are instances when the court may assume authority over the child even though the minor remains in the custody of a parent. In this scenario, the court has asserted some degree of authority but has not yet gone as far as to remove parental oversight. In such cases, minors are not necessarily a legal ward of the court.

That same reasoning holds true in cases when minors work with an attorney to successfully petition the court to be declared emancipated. Although such minors are no longer under the legal control or protection of a parent or guardian, they are not automatically under the court’s protection either. Therefore, they do not meet the legal standard of a ward of the court.

Another compelling situation is when minors commit crimes and are incarcerated. The mere fact that the state has assumed control and placed the child in a correctional facility does not necessarily make them a ward of the court. As long as a parent or appointed guardian is in place, the minor may not be considered a ward.  

What Triggers A Minor Becoming a Ward of the Court?

Like the adult process, there are a number of ways that a child can go from being the responsibility of a parent to a ward of the court. Sadly, ranked among the more prevalent pathways, the court places children under its protection when they are neglected, abused, or otherwise mistreated. We hear and read about many extreme cases in the media of children being subjected to squalor, malnutrition, and other horrors. The legal protections of the court are often inserted until the children can be treated, and a suitable living environment can be secured.

In other cases, the court may proactively take control over wayward youths. It’s not unusual for a minor with a growing criminal record, history of drug and alcohol abuse, or mental health issues to be removed from a parent’s custody. Wards may be placed in institutional settings that include rehabilitative programs. The court’s goal in cases of wayward youths is to redirect negative behaviors and integrate them as productive members of the community.

There are also cases when parents are physically or mentally unable to provide the stable homelife a child requires. Whether that evolves from diminished physical health or an emerging mental condition, parents have the option to work with an attorney and petition the court to place their child under its protection. Parents are often required to sign over custody in voluntary petitions. In these types of cases, parents can have significant input regarding placement and the future well-being of their child. It’s also not unusual for parents to regain their capacity to care for a child and ask the court to reinstate their rights.

How Long Does a Person Remain a Ward of the Court or Ward of the State?

In many situations, a person becomes a ward of the state permanently, because there are only limited circumstances where the status is removed. One is if the ward recovers and is again able to manage their own affairs. The other is if a family member or other person becomes able to take on the role of guardian and the change is in the best interests of the ward. Both of these situations are reviewed in a hearing to terminate ward of the state status.

Is the State Financially Responsible for a Ward?

Becoming a ward of the state does not mean receiving financial assistance from the state. In fact, the ward is responsible for not only their own costs but reasonable fees for the guardian’s services as well. If the ward has savings or other assets, the guardian is responsible for using them to the ward’s benefit with oversight from the court. Other financial resources the ward may have include wages from any job the ward is able to perform, Social Security Disability benefits, and other government assistance programs. The guardian is responsible for helping the ward manage and obtain these financial resources. The state is responsible for overseeing the guardian’s actions. Any special assistance the ward may receive due to being a ward of the state or due to their condition is separate from the legal process of becoming a ward of the estate and having a guardian appointed.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Ward of the State?

Being a ward of the state is really a last resort option. When no other options are available, the state will take the steps needed to make sure that a person’s basic needs are met.

What are the Disadvantages of Being a Ward of the State?

The biggest disadvantage to being a ward of the state is being under the guardianship of an unknown person. Guardians are vetted, but an overworked and underfunded legal system means that things don’t always go as planned. There have been numerous complaints of financial abuse by a guardian. In some cases, this has even involved someone attempting to become someone’s guardian for the purpose of draining their assets. While these types of crimes have also been committed by related guardians, knowing who your guardian will be gives you more control over the situation as well as the family pressure to due the right thing.

Other complaints regarding guardians have included disregarding the ward’s wishes, not providing individualized solutions, not providing information to family members or the court, or inappropriately controlling or restricting relationships with others. The causes for these are varied. In some cases, a well-intended guardian is simply too overworked. In others, the guardian is more interested in collecting a check than providing the service if not trying to hide an outright financial fraud. Depending on the ward’s capacity and level of involvement from their family, if any, it can be difficult for anyone to recognize what is going on and to try to find a solution.

What are the Alternatives to Becoming a Ward of the State?

Becoming a ward of the state is sometimes unavoidable but can be prevented in some cases with a little planning. The best alternative is to have a family member or friend who can become the guardian. Potential guardians sometimes avoid taking on the responsibility out of fear of a potential financial burden. Remember, though, that the guardian is not financially responsible for the ward. Working with an attorney or a social worker can help identify the financial resources available to the ward so that all of their expenses can be met. The guardian may also be eligible for tax benefits if they do cover some of the ward’s expenses such as allowing the ward to move in.

Preplanning is also a good alternative to becoming a ward of the state or at least to some of the potential negative outcomes. Someone with a family history of dementia or who is concerned about an accident or sudden illness may want to put medical and financial directives in place in case they lose the capacity to make decisions in the future. Any future guardian would have an obligation to follow these directives except where a judge agrees that very compelling circumstances require a change.

Can a Parent Stop a Child from Becoming a Ward of the Court?

If you’re charged with abuse or neglect, you have due process rights to protect your parental rights and can work with an attorney who practices in that area to maintain custody. If you die or become incapacitated, it’s simply impossible to go to court and fight for your children. Since it’s this latter scenario that you’re trying to prevent through estate planning, the only way to prevent your child from becoming a ward of the court is to plan ahead.

Can a Guardian Be Blocked or Replaced?

The court must always agree that a potential guardian would serve the best interests of the ward. A guardian may also be terminated and replaced when the judge finds it is in the best interests of the ward to do so. The ward, if able, or any person with knowledge of abuse or unsuitability may challenge the appointment of a guardian or request that a guardian be replaced. It is not required to prove that the guardian has committed any particular abuse, violated the law, or acted outside the bounds of the original court order. Those factors can influence a judge’s decision, but the fact that someone would be better suited to be the guardian is enough for a replacement. The court will hold a hearing to review the evidence, allow the guardian to respond, and make any adjustments needed.

How to Decide Who Takes Care of Your Children

If you want to decide who takes care of your children instead of having a court do it, there are a few steps you need to take.

Update Your Emergency Contacts

Schools, daycares, and anyone else who takes care of your children for the day will usually ask for a list of people who are authorized to pick up your children. This should include who should pick them up in an emergency when you can’t be reached. Your children should also know the name and phone number of a relative or close friend to call in an emergency.

Keep in mind this is just a temporary arrangement. Even if your selected person is willing to care for your children indefinitely, they won’t have legal authority to make decisions for them at the doctor, school, bank, or other important places.

Nominate a Guardian

A more permanent solution is to nominate a guardian. A guardian takes full care of your children with the same authority of a parent. While the court technically selects the guardian, it will honor a parent’s wishes as long as the nominated guardian is suitable. If your chosen guardian lives out of state, you may wish to also nominate a local temporary or backup guardian until the permanent guardian can arrive or your family can arrange for the children to move to the permanent guardian.

Create a Power of Attorney

You can also create a power of attorney for your children. This is similar to a guardianship in that you can grant your selected agent full authority to do anything you could, but it’s more temporary. A power of attorney can help in cases of temporary illness or if something happens to one parent while the other is traveling away from home.

Appoint a Conservator

A conservator is similar to a guardian but only handles financial affairs while another guardian handles everything else. Some parents worry about a guardian misusing assets the parents left for their children’s benefit. While courts do monitor guardians, some financial abuses can go unnoticed by the court if another family member isn’t aware to bring it to the court’s attention. Appointing a separate conservator provides a more direct form of oversight.

How to Provide for Your Children Financially

When courts are reviewing who will care for children, they consider financial means. A family member who you would like to be the guardian may not have the income or assets needed to raise your children. While the guardian generally doesn’t legally have personal liability for childcare expenses, your children do need some source of money in order to not become wards of the court. You have several options to achieve this.

Life Insurance

Life insurance is one of the easiest ways to provide for your children. You can buy a policy that covers your future earnings or what you would have spent to raise them including college costs. You can name your children as beneficiaries, or have the money go into a trust on their behalf.

Will

You can also use your will to leave money to your children. Creating a will is a simple step, but it isn’t without pitfalls. A will has to go through probate, and if you have debts, your creditors may be entitled to repayment before your heirs receive anything. A will also provides the lowest degree of control over how the money you leave is spent.

Trust

A trust with your children as the beneficiary holds assets to your benefit during your life and then automatically transfers them to your children upon your death. Some of the major benefits of using a trust are that you can set it up to hold money until your children reach a certain age or to be used for a specific purpose.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

You should also prepare for a long-term illness or other incapacitation. Life insurance, wills, and trusts only work after death. If you are still alive, your family will need the legal authority to access your funds to use for your children.

A durable power of attorney kicks in on a triggering event you specify such as your hospitalization. You can give your power of attorney access to your checking account, or you can maintain a separate savings account with funds for your children in case of an emergency. To the extent you have funds available, this guarantees money will be available for your children regardless of your family’s willingness or ability to cover their expenses.

Terminating Guardianship in Wards of the Court or Wards of the State

It’s essential to keep in mind that adult and minor child guardianships can be vastly different. In large part, that’s due to the underlying reason the court deemed someone a ward of the court in the first place.

In both types of guardianship, the basic premise is that the individual cannot conduct reasonable self-care. This may be true of both minors and adults, but most children have parents in place to act in their best interest. When our valued elders, for example, begin to lose the physical and cognitive skills to make salient health, wellness, and financial decisions, oversight may be necessary. Other adults may temporarily fall ill, and the protections are put in place only until they recover.

When children go astray, become incapacitated, or a parent is unable to provide proper care for them, guardianship tends to be a stop-gap measure. Either the situation corrects itself, or the minor eventually becomes an adult and takes on their own decision-making. In either case, the court will need to be formally petitioned to end a guardianship.

How to Terminate an Adult Guardianship, Including Wards of the Court or State

In order to understand how to navigate the stringent legal process of ending a guardianship, it’s essential to consider how you got here. In all likelihood, either a third party petitioned the court and won a case against you to deem you incompetent, or you came to the process voluntarily. This difference has a substantial impact on termination.

Going to the court and asking to be voluntarily deemed a ward came with certain advantages. You probably had input about who would become your guardian during your recovery. And, your wishes about what areas this person would hold legal sway may have been negotiated. Terminating a voluntary guardianship often entails merely proving you have regained competence.

On the other hand, involuntary tracts could mean that you will face increased resistance from the party or parties that petitioned the court in the first place. That may mean overcoming objections as well as having documentation and testimony from experts that you are prepared to resume control over your affairs. These are common steps that are required to terminate a guardianship.  

  • File Legal Papers: A Petition to Terminate Guardianship, and a Citation or a Notice of Hearing, will need to be crafted and filed on your behalf. Supporting documents may be required to gain a hearing. Materials may include a final accounting reportIf your guardian or conservator oversaw your estate while recovering, a final reckoning of all financial records must accompany your petition. Papers may call for letters from you’re your physicians. Your doctors must provide statements that assert you have regained the ability to conduct your own affairs competently.
  • Serve Guardian & Others with Papers: All relevant parties must be formally notified that you have petitioned to terminate the guardianship via certified mail. If this step is not thoroughly completed, a judge will likely not hear your case.
  • Attend a Hearing: The judge will read the pertinent documents and likely ask questions. If others object to the petition, more comprehensive testimony may be required. Once the judge has been satisfied that you meet the legal standard, an Order Terminating Guardianship will be issued.

If the guardianship pertained to end-of-life considerations, the court generally requires a financial accounting before releasing the guardian. The challenges confronting parents or other loved ones trying to terminate a guardianship and regain custody can be significantly different.

How to Terminate Guardianship Over a Minor

In order to restore your parental rights and regain custody of a child, you may be tasked with petitioning the court to terminate a guardianship. Much like when adults are deemed wards of the court, the reason your child has a guardian in place will likely impact how difficult you can anticipate the process ahead.

For instance, if another family member petitioned the court to have your child made a ward, the underlying claims will likely need to be adequately addressed. If it involved substance abuse, neglect, or a health condition, a proactive filing and subsequent argument at a formal hearing would have to overcome the initial court findings. In other words, you face an uphill battle of basically proving your ability to properly care for yourself and the child. The goal of this rigorous process will involve persuading the court of the following.

  • The adverse situation has been resolved
  • It’s in the child’s best interest to be placed with a parent
  • You can successfully provide for daily health, wellness, and emotional needs of the child
  • You are financially stable or are receiving adequate public assistance
  • You enjoy positive extended family and community relationships

The process of regaining parental rights and terminating a guardianship requires crafting a highly persuasive petition and supplying authoritative supporting documents, as well as possible witness testimony. There are also a variety of legal pathways that can be accessed, depending on how and why you got to this point.

  • When Guardians Object: In cases in which the court-appointed guardian objects to their removal, a full hearing may be required. This brings together the key stakeholders in the process to determine whether to keep court oversight in place or give your child back to you.
  • When Guardians Agree to Termination: In such cases, parents need only demonstrate that they are competent and able to serve the best interest of their child in a stable and healthy fashion.
  • Terminating for Adoption, Marriage, or Service: The act of adoption effectively ends ward of the court status. The same holds true in marriage, and minors who enlist in the military enjoy grounds to terminate the guardianship over them.
  • When a Child Turns 18 Years Old: When a minor reaches the age of majority, they are no longer a ward of the court, and the guardianship times out. The court-appointed person would be wise to file a notice with the court.
  • Guardianships Over Estates at 18 Years Old: Control over assets does not generally end when a minor turns 18 years old. The court will need to be petitioned, and a final accounting of the finances must be filed. The court must issue a directive releasing the assets before the previous ward can access them.
  • Cases of Emancipated Minors: When the court agrees to emancipate a minor, they no longer are deemed a ward of the court. Part of the hearing should include the automatic termination of the guardianship.

In some cases, the court-appointed person finds that they can no longer serve in that capacity. This could be due to illness, relocation, or they believe terminating the guardianship is in the minor’s best interest. The court enjoys great latitude in such cases and may decide to resolve the matter in a number of ways. The court may agree that the minor no longer needs or benefits from oversight. In many instances, the court appoints a new guardian to take over the responsibilities.

Protect Your Loved One’s Rights & Interests

If you or a loved one is facing the possibility of becoming a ward of the court, or you fear for how guardianship will transpire in a known or unknown future scenario, it’s imperative that you engage the best legal counsel possible. The legal hurdles, hearings, and documentation required to negotiate the process tend to be highly complicated. And, missteps can cause unexpected setbacks and a less than desirable result.

How To Prevent My Child From Becoming a Ward of the Court or State

The court system involves complex filings, documentation, and bureaucracies that are difficult for everyday people to navigate. A simple missing document or misstep can upend your efforts to terminate a guardianship. It’s in your best interest to have a determined and compassionate attorney who works in the family courts on a daily basis. Moreover, it’s critical you get your estate plan set up today so that you can avoid these nightmares for your family before they even get a chance to happen.   Contact us today by filling out the contact form below or giving us a call.  We’ll have a very-friendly estate planning attorney connect with you asap.

What is a Plenary Guardian?

What is a Plenary Guardian?

If you have a teenage child or young adult child with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD), you may have concerns over how they will navigate the world as an adult. You may be wondering whether you need to assume legal guardianship to protect them from potentially costly mistakes. It is only sensible to think about whether or not they may need your help in making important life decisions moving forward. That is why it is important to learn more about different types of guardianship. The more you learn about the legal avenues that are available to you, the better you will be able to decide what is best for your child.

What is Plenary Guardianship?

Plenary guardianship is the official legal term for full guardianship. It is the most complete form of guardianship that can be granted by the court — where you take full decision-making responsibility for your child.

Deciding to seek full guardianship for your child is a major choice that should not be made lightly, as it will remove all of your adult child’s legal rights to make major life decisions. The last thing you want to do is lower their quality of life, so you will want to discuss the possibility of plenary guardianship with multiple key figures in your child’s life to ensure you are completely certain about your decision. These figures may include your special needs lawyer, the child’s other parent, your child’s primary physician and other medical experts. Not only will these experts help you decide what your child really needs, they can also help you present a complete argument to the court if you find you need to seek plenary guardianship.

If you do get plenary guardianship from the court, you will take over responsibility for some or all of your child’s major life decisions, including:

  • Voting
  • Driving
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Medical decisions
  • Financial decisions
  • Entering into contracts
  • Living arrangements
  • Creating a will

There are definitely individuals with such a severe IDD that they require plenary guardianship. For those individuals, plenary guardianship is a necessity for their safety and those around them. But it is also important to understand that plenary guardianship is often not necessary. Just because someone has an IDD, even a fairly significant IDD, does not mean that they should have all of their rights taken away and put in the hands of someone else — even someone as well-intentioned as their parent.

Why Do Parents Seek Plenary Guardianship?

The primary reason for plenary guardianship is to ensure the safety of the individual under guardianship. An IDD can be so severe that it can make an individual vulnerable to dangerous decisions and/or being taken advantage of by others. You want your child to live a relatively safe, comfortable, secure life. If you are certain that having full rights to get married, divorced, drive, enter into contracts, make medical decisions, make financial decisions, and so on, is likely to put your adult child in significant danger, it may be necessary to take away those rights.

How to Decide if Plenary Guardianship is Necessary

Seeking plenary guardianship for your adult child with an IDD or soon to be adult child is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. You love your child and want what is best for them — and that may mean taking over some or all of their decision-making through full guardianship. But how do you decide if plenary guardianship is the right choice?

There is no simple, easy answer to this question. But there are some questions you can ask yourself and other experts like your special needs attorney that can help guide your decision, including:

  • Is your child completely incapable of making health care or financial decisions? Decisions like whether to get a life-saving surgery, take birth control and pay rent are extremely important choices that adults must make for their own well-being. If you do not believe your child is capable of making such decisions, you may feel compelled to take over such decisions to ensure their safety. 
  • Can your child make some major decisions with reasonable — or even extreme — assistance or accommodation? Many young adults with an IDD are capable of making some major decisions, particularly if they have some help from others that they can trust. It is far better to err on the side of caution when it comes to taking away your child’s rights to make their own decisions both for their happiness and your own. 
  • Is there a less extreme legal option you can utilize other than plenary guardianship? Plenary guardianship is considered the most drastic choice because it fully removes the rights of your child and puts them in your hands. There may be other options, like limited guardianship or power of attorney, that would allow you to provide adequate protection without the need to take away all your child’s rights. 

Alternatives to Plenary Guardianship: Limited Guardianship

If after careful consideration you determine that your child is unable to make some decisions safely due to their IDD, but not all, you could seek a limited guardianship. As the name implies, a limited guardianship is granted to address specific limitations the individual with an IDD may face. For example, if you know that your child is not capable of making sound financial decisions but is capable of making other major decisions like driving or choosing a life partner, you could seek a limited guardianship for financial matters. 

Alternatives to Plenary Guardianship: Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is even less restrictive than a limited guardianship. It grants you the power to make specific decisions on behalf of your child, such as health care decisions or financial decisions. You could get a power of attorney to help in the areas where you know you are needed without having to go through the extensive process of getting guardianship. 

Remember — The Court Will Err on the Side of Caution

As you are making your decision about what type of guardianship or legal option you want for your child with an IDD, it is important to keep the priorities of the court in mind. Generally, courts are averse to taking away any more of an individual’s rights than they have to. You are going to have a much harder time convincing a court to give you plenary guardianship than you would limited guardianship. Power of attorney will be easier to get than limited guardianship. 

Of course, if you are absolutely certain that plenary guardianship is necessary and you and your attorney can provide sufficient evidence and a compelling argument, you will likely be granted full guardianship. 

Trust Your Judgment and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

You know your child better than anyone — which means you are the best-equipped to determine what kind of help they need as they come into adulthood. However, since the question of plenary guardianship is so significant, you should not be afraid to seek help as you make your choice. Your family physician, any specialists your child sees, and your special needs attorney have likely all encountered similar situations with other patients/clients. They can give you some insight that will probably make you feel better about your final decision. They can tell you about examples they have seen of full guardianship, experiences of adults with IDDs, information about the legal hurdles you may face and more. 

In the end, it will be up to you whether you choose to seek plenary guardianship, limited guardianship, power of attorney or some other avenue to protect your adult child with an IDD. But you will likely feel better having consulted with experts before you finalize your decision. 

Getting Help with Guardianship Decisions

For parents of children of with an IDD, the approach of their 18th birthday can bring mixed feelings. On the one hand, you know it is a joyous occasion that your child has reached one of the great milestones of life — as with every new 18-year-old, they gain the right to vote, to marry, to become part of the armed forces and to move out on their own. But the reality of their IDD could give you serious hesitation about leaving them to their own devices. You know better than anyone how capable — or incapable — they may be to make significant life decisions. You want to protect them, and you may need to take legal action to do so.

At Lilac City Law, we understand how difficult it can be to decide questions of guardianship for an adult child with an IDD. We want you to know that you do not have to go through this process alone. We are committed to helping our clients find the best available option for their children and their own wellbeing. We can help you decide if full guardianship is the right choice for your child and we can help you seek guardianship from the court.

If you have questions about plenary guardianship and your other options for protecting your adult child with an IDD, please reach out to us using the contact form below or just give us a call. It is our mission to help you protect your family, and we are ready to assist in whatever way we can. 

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5 Reasons You Need a Lawyer for Your Social Security Disability Appeal

It is not fair. You have worked hard and paid into the system. Now it is time to collect on that because you have been injured and cannot work anymore.

You play by the book, go to your doctor appointments, get all the paperwork and send in your application for Social Security disability.

No money is coming in. You are getting desperate, waiting on a reply from the Social Security Office. Finally, it arrives in the mail.

You rip open the envelope. Denied! Now what?

If this sounds like you, you are not alone. At least 70% of people get denied the first time they apply for Social Security disability. 

Many people give up when they receive the first denial letter and do not bother filing a social security disability appeal. That is a mistake.

Here are five ways a lawyer for social security disability appeal can help.

Experience

It is hard to understand all the jargon and terminology involved in disability claims and appeals. The Social Security Administration has a list of rules and regulations that can be confusing to the average person.

A lawyer who specializes in Social Security disability benefits has the experience to cut through all the red tape. It is hard enough for someone who is already dealing with an injury and all the doctor’s appointments to have to try to figure out the paperwork involved.

According to the SSA, 31% of applicants get denied for reasons not related to their medical condition. Frankly, a big portion of this 31% is because of not filing the correct paperwork or missed deadlines.

Provides the Right Evidence

Your attorney will communicate with your physician and any other medical facility to get required medical records. If witnesses are needed to strengthen your case, your lawyer will present them at your hearing.

An experienced SSD lawyer knows the evidence that will strengthen your case, so you have the best chance of winning.

Your Lawyer Will Be at Your Side

When you do have to go in front of the judge, you will have your lawyer by your side. He or she will help prepare you for the questions you will face.

There will be medical experts at the hearing, and your attorney will ask the right questions during cross-examination to help your case.

Reduces Stress for Your Social Security Disability Appeal

It can take up to two years or longer to get your case resolved. Much of this depends on the complexity of the case, and where you live.

After your initial application, it takes on average, six months to receive a decision. After your first appeal, it takes anywhere from two to seven months.

These lingering timelines can be highly frustrating, exhausting and stressful.

Because of all the paperwork and phone calls, it is easy to become overwhelmed and you may feel like giving up. Having an attorney can help you see the end goal more clearly to keep you going in the right direction.

SSD Attorneys Work on a Contingency Basis

It can be difficult for a person who is struggling to pay the bills because of the lack of income. How are you supposed to have money to pay for a lawyer?!?!

Good news! An SSD lawyer receives payment only after winning your case.

The Social Security Administration regulates legal representative’s fees, and the lawyers must file a fee petition or fee agreement with the SSA.

The average payment to a lawyer for SSD representation is 25% of the past-due benefits with a maximum of $6,000. Some disability lawyers will charge for any out-of-pocket costs as well.

We Can Help

There is no need to go it alone. Put the burden on our shoulders and let us help carry the load. 

Contact us right away so we can start working on your Social Security disability appeal so you can get the benefits that you deserve. 

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Out of Work Due to a Disability? 6 Community Resources That Can Help

Being out of work due to a disability can be scary and overwhelming.

Especially if you are unsure of what you should be doing until you get approved for social security.

Thankfully, there are many community resources available that can provide you with assistance and aid during your period of unemployment.

Here are 6 community resources that can help you as you navigate this period of transition.

AbilityOne

AbilityOne is a network of many community-based agencies that offer job opportunities and job training for people living with disabilities. In fact, there are more than 600 community groups involved with this organization. This makes AbilityOne a great resource for finding work, or for receiving any training you may need to make a career switch.

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) offices are dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities become employed and fully engaged within their community. This office provides employment services as well as individual counseling to people with disabilities. They even provide technical assistance and job training.

In order to be helped by the DVR, you must apply for the services. They will collect information regarding your identity, disability, and work status. You can see if you are eligible for DVR services here.

Independent Living Centers

Independent Living Centers (ILC) are another great community resource for unemployed people with disabilities. Your local ILC office can provide you with a variety of things, including job coaching and training. They also usually have connections with employers in your area that are interested in hiring people with disabilities, so they can provide you with job connections.

Disability Guide

Are you a veteran looking for more information about what disability benefits you may be entitled to? Or are you simply looking for more informational resources about disability benefits and employment? Either way, this free disability benefits guide can answer important questions such as:

  • What benefits are available to me?
  • How do I qualify for benefits?
  • How do I get these benefits?

Want to learn more? Download our free disability report.

American Job Center

Did you know there are close to 3,000 American Job Centers across the country? These centers have many resources to help you get back on your feet, such as job training and free computer access. Their counselors can help you explore job opportunities, revise your resume, and find something that works for you.

Legal Assistance

Are you stressed that you will not receive the disability benefits you deserve? If so, you should connect with a qualified attorney who can help you increase your chances of receiving your benefits. Some law firms have also compiled a variety of blog posts and articles on the subject of disability benefits that you can read before meeting with a lawyer to discuss your options.

Final Thoughts on Community Resources for People with Disabilities

Being unemployed with disabilities can be scary. But with the right community resources, it doesn’t have to be! By exploring the resources available you can find the assistance you need until you get approved for social security.

Are you looking for legal assistance for your disability benefits? Not sure where to start? Contact us for efficient and courteous legal assistance.

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