Do I need an attorney? Special Needs Attorneys and Planners

Families of children with special needs face many challenges, including legal issues. Parents are sometimes not sure if they should consult an attorney or simply try to figure things out on their own. Every situation is unique and the truth is some people may not need legal help. Red Treehouse can help you understand some of the things that attorneys can do for you and show you how to find one with the expertise you need.

What legal issues do families with children with special needs face?

  • Qualifying for government benefits (SSI, Medicaid)

  • Lawsuit settlements and recovery

  • Estate planning/Special Needs Trusts

  • Guardianship/Health Care Proxy/Powers of Attorney

  • Family Law issues – adoption, divorce, child custody and child support

  • Special Education Issues (IDEA, IEP, 504 issues)

What is a special needs attorney?

Although all attorneys are trained in general law, many specialize in certain areas of the law. Special needs attorneys devote a significant part of their practice to helping people with disabilities and their families. Many special needs attorneys have family members or loved ones that have special needs. They work closely with advocacy organizations in the community to help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. To understand more about what a special needs attorney can help families with, check out Special Needs Law and Disability Planning.

What should I look for in a special needs attorney?

Because families with children with special needs may have a wide variety of legal issues, it is important to find an attorney that has the right type of experience. At a minimum, a special needs attorney should know the special education laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requirements for Social Security and Medicaid and other public benefits and rules pertaining to special needs trusts. Additionally, a good special needs attorney will be a compassionate person that is willing to fight for the rights of your child. To understand some of the things you should consider when picking an attorney see what to look for in a special needs attorney. Another source for learning what to consider when picking an attorney is available from the Ohio National Financial Services.

How can I find a special needs attorney?

There are many ways to identify the right attorney to help you with your special needs planning. Other families with children with similar issues can share their experiences and local disability groups and agencies may also be able to make suggestions. The Special Needs Alliance can be another good source of locating attorneys in all states. The Academy of Special Needs Planners also maintains a list of attorneys and financial planners by state.

This guide was developed as part of a project made possible by a Grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

Lead researcher/author: Helen Livingston Rapp, Esq., Legal Intern