At Chayet & Danzo LLC, one of our foremost professional goals is to help families with children or other relatives who have autism or other intellectual or developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome or Fragile X syndrome. We provide guidance and legal services to these clients to help them protect their loved ones in areas of legal, financial, physical and personal vulnerability.
The New York Times recently covered the moving photojournalism project of Erin Lefevre, the sister of a young man with autism. The project, called “Liam’s World,” is a series of photos of her brother with captions that he writes.
Through the ongoing project, Lefevre wants to give her brother and people with similar disabilities a voice since they do not often have the “opportunity to speak for themselves.” She strives to bring out his personality in ways not defined by his disability. Finally, she “hopes other families who have relatives with special needs can ‘see pieces of themselves’ in the images.”
Legal aspects of disability
Broadly, two main areas of a person with disabilities’ life that require careful planning and management are safe and appropriate services and financial support. Family members want to be sure their loved ones with disabilities receive good residential, health care and other personal services in safe settings. It is also a priority to preserve eligibility for government benefit programs like Health First Colorado (our Medicaid program), Supplemental Security Income or SSI, and others, by careful assets and money management.
Short- and long-term issues that we commonly address at our law firm for these families include:
- Estate planning tools like wills and trusts carefully drafted to direct money and assets to specially designed trusts that will not count as part of the individual’s assets for purposes of public benefits when a parent or other relative passes away
- Special needs trusts to provide money to enrich the lives of disabled beneficiaries while protecting government-benefit eligibility
- Other trusts like Medicare set-aside accounts, pooled trusts, third-party discretionary trusts and others
- Guardianships and conservatorships to appoint persons to make decisions, arrange for care and services, manage money and assets, and otherwise protect the person and property of disabled loved ones
- Private insurance like medical or long-term care
- Monitoring the quality of services provided in group homes, nursing homes and other residential settings
- Lawsuits and other legal remedies in cases of abuse or neglect
- And others
Our hope is that through thoughtful, smart and legally sound planning and strategy, we can help family members to not only protect and care for loved ones with disabilities, but also maximize their independence, experiences, relationships, strengths and happiness.