Special Education Representation
Today, our firm represents hundreds of families each year from the greater Washington, D.C. area who are involved in special education proceedings at local and federal levels. We can provide assistance at any stage of the special education process, from before eligibility is determined to due process hearings, through the appeals process in the courts. Our expertise and connections in the greater Washington, D.C. community help us to work on behalf of our clients to secure special education services and to help ensure that the rights of parents and students under the IDEA are protected.
Frequently Asked Questions
Principles of Special Education Law
Human development and education happen, and it is impossible to recover days lost in the life of a child.
In the ivory tower world of special education, there are many experts, but none more knowledgeable or reliable than the parents of the child.
At least they are under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, where an equal partnership between parents and school systems is mandated.
There are many professionals in school systems who advocate for children (and many more who just say they do), but none of them can do what a child's parents do.
As in the Individualized Education Program, the single most powerful aspect of a disabled child's schooling, the right to individualized treatment.
Under the IDEA, it is much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also concerns social/emotional development, organization, and self-concept.
Not for everything, but for a lot. School systems are trained in federal law, receive federal money under it, and are presumed to know what they are doing. They are therefore responsible.
The least restrictive environment (LRE) for a disabled child must first be determined to be an appropriate one for him or her.
Disabled children do not necessarily get the best education money can buy, but they do have the right to have all of their educational needs identified before a program is proposed.
Nothing substitutes for a parent finding the time to go into the school and observe in the classroom. This applies to all education, not just special education.
A shorthand formula meaning nothing more complicated than a child is entitled to progress in normal human development. If this is not happening, then the IDEA provides for other paths to that natural entitlement.
As for the rest of life, sometimes our personal efforts are not enough. If you think you might be at that place, please give us a call.
An improperly prepared will could inadvertently make a child with disabilities ineligible for needed financial and health care benefits. This complex document should be prepared by an attorney who is experienced in protecting the interests of families with special needs children.
Often prepared in conjunction with a will, a letter of intent familiarizes the appropriate people (personal representative, trustee, guardian, or service provider), with the parents’ expectations and wishes for a minor child or adult child with special needs. For example, it could address issues such as living arrangements, education, employment, medical history, health care needs, medication, therapies, abilities and needs, likes/dislikes, habits, behaviors, and more.
A special needs trust or supplemental needs trust manages funds for someone who may not be able to do so himself due to disability while preserving the beneficiary’s eligibility for public benefits, such as SSI, Medicaid, public housing, or other programs.
Instead of the money being spent on living and/or medical expenses, the gift or inheritance can be used to improve the child’s quality of life. Extra items that such a trust might cover include electric wheelchairs, communication devices not covered by insurance, computers, vacations, visits to and from family, and other personal needs.
Each situation and each benefit program has its own rules that affect the drafting, funding, and administration of a special needs trust. Some considerations when setting up a trust include:
- Choosing the trustee(s);
- Determining whether a revocable or irrevocable trust is appropriate;
- Tax planning issues;
- Probate issues;
- Estimating how much money is needed to fund the trust;
- Varying funding options (cash, savings, stocks and bonds, mutual funds, life insurance, pension plans, real estate).
There are different ways of structuring and funding special needs trusts, and an experienced special needs attorney can help determine which one is most appropriate. For example, the trust may be funded by someone other than the beneficiary, funded with a disabled individual’s own assets (such as life insurance proceeds or a personal injury settlement), or set up as a pooled special needs trust.
Many families will choose to designate one or more guardians to help care for their child with special needs. Guardianship can be broad enough to cover all decisions or may be limited to certain kinds of decisions, such as where a person will live, what kinds of health care he or she will receive, where he or she will go to school or work, or how his or her money is invested and spent.
Laws regarding the rights and responsibilities of guardians vary with particular situations and from state to state; families should consult with an experienced attorney about these important decisions.
Families may also rely on a health care agent or surrogate to make health care decisions on behalf of a family member with special needs, or elect to set up a durable power of attorney to assist with making legal and financial decisions. Informal arrangements, such as enlisting the assistance of an advocate or sibling, or setting up a joint bank account, work for many families but also may have drawbacks.
There are several other important issues to consider when planning how to leave money or other assets to others. These include minimizing the impact of taxes, planning for potential long-term care needs, and working effectively with professionals. Planning issues will vary depending on many factors, including the person’s age, health status, marital status, assets, the number of dependents and any special needs they may have, and the person’s own long-term care needs.
Planning for the future of an individual with special needs requires in-depth knowledge of federal and state laws as they pertain to government benefit eligibility, and experience working with legal documents such as special needs trusts and guardianships. The special needs attorneys at Michael J. Eig & Associates can evaluate a family’s unique needs and challenges, and coordinate financial, legal, and state benefit plans to develop the best plan for each client.
Here is an interesting article on financial planning for your special needs child:
Visit our frequently asked questions page for more information. Contact us today to begin planning for your family’s future.