How Can I Ensure My Adult Special Needs Daughter Can Make the Right Decisions?

Ann asks: “My daughter is turning 18 years old in 3 months. I have been told that age 18, things can change. I am not sure what changes or if turning 18 is as significant as I have been told. What happens at age 18?”


Ann, Thank you for your question.  Turning 18 years old is a significant milestone in most young people’s lives, but for individuals with special needs it is critical.

When we think about your daughter turning 18, we think of two major areas of her life that you will need to consider.  The first area is her ability to make her own decisions and understand the consequences of making those decisions.  If your daughter still needs help in making sound decisions such as financial decisions, medical decisions, educational decisions and day to day life decisions, then you may want to consider applying to be her Guardian.  Being your daughter’s Guardian allows you to continue to be in the parental role.  You not only help her make decisions, you continue to be the final decision maker.

In order to become your daughter’s Guardian you will need to begin the Guardianship process.  You can begin this process by contacting your Clerk of Courts office in the county in which you live.  They will have paperwork that you will need to complete, and they will walk you through the necessary steps.

The second area that needs to be addressed is your daughter qualifying for government benefits.  Depending on her diagnosis, and the level of need, she may very well qualify to receive benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Medicaid will provide health care but more importantly will provide access to services such as Housing, Supportive Employment, Transportation, and more; while SSI will provide your daughter a monthly income.  In order to qualify for these items you must contact your local social security office and apply.  You will need documentation that illustrates your daughter’s disability, as well as documentation that shows her financial situation.

Please note that in order to qualify for Medicaid and SSI, your daughter not only must qualify based upon her diagnosis, but also financially.  It is important that your daughter does not have countable assets in her name that exceed $2,000.  Most assets will count towards that $2,000 amount.  If your daughter has a savings account, a custodial investment account (UTMA), checking account, savings bonds (and the list continues) that total more than $2,000 she will not qualify for Medicaid and SSI.  Please take solace in knowing that all is not lost if her accounts total more than $2,000.  There are steps you can take to still qualify!

Your daughter’s 18th birthday brings joy, and also brings important decisions for you, her and your family.  If you are unsure of the direction that is best for your daughter and your family, please feel free to contact us or visit our website for more information.

For more information on how to prepare for the future, be sure to contact a financial advisor who specializes in serving families with special needs. A Special Needs Plan is driven by what they call Unleash L.I.F.E.™- L.I.F.E. meaning Lasting Independence For Everyone™. This is accomplished with education, action, and support in the creation, implementation, and continued monitoring of a specifically designed lifelong and integrated plan for your family: parents, caregivers, your loved one with special needs and their siblings.

6000 Fairview Road, Suite 400
Charlotte, NC 28210

This article was featured in Issue 39 – Working Together to Communicate Better

Ryan Platt

Ryan F. Platt, MBA, ChFC, ChSNC, is a registered representative that offers securities, investment advisory, and financial planning through MML Investors Services, LLC, member of SIPC. A Special Needs Plan is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC, or its affiliated companies. This article is not a recommendation or an endorsement of any products. He is the founder of A Special Needs Plan.

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