Don’t Start 2024 Overwhelmed!
We all tend to make unrealistic New Year’s resolutions that are never fulfilled. Let this year be different, you owe it to your family and yourself. Throughout the year, we give advice to our clients on their specific matters, and in topical articles and seminars, but some of the advice is universal and would benefit many of our other clients. Therefore, we decided to share some of our most widely used suggestions as a starting point to help you set manageable goals for 2024. Although the list seems lengthy, we encourage you to scroll through and see if any of the topics resonate with you.
Special Education: Once the calendar flips to the new year, we seem to move at breakneck speed toward June. Therefore, we suggest you start preparing for IEP review season now. Although most annual review meetings occur later in the spring, there are things you can do now so you do not find yourself running out of time to iron out details for ESY, or having next year’s program and placement finalized before school staff and administration are off for the summer. Here are the first steps to take:
- 1. Begin by getting organized. Create a 3-ring notebook for your child’s documents. Get dividers to separate the binder into 504 Plans/IEPs, testing/evaluations/reports from your school and specialists, report cards, IEP progress reports, and communications between you and school staff members. We recommend filing the documents by date within each section, with the most recent on top. If any of those documents are missing, ask for them.
- 2. Next, review your child’s 504 Plan and/or IEP. Make note of any services that are not being provided at the frequency set forth in the IEP. Compare the goals and objectives with the progress reports to be sure that everything is being tracked, and if progress is being made as anticipated.
- 3. If your child is 14 or older, transition planning should be addressed in the IEP. Make a note if it is not, and be sure to raise it in your annual review meeting. Transition planning should have its own set of goals with time frames for achievement. This is one area of the IEP where input from the child is vital; their life plans should be taken into account when developing a transition plan.
- 4. If your child is in 12th grade, be sure that you and the District are on the same page with respect to graduation. You do not want to be caught off-guard and discover late in the school year that the District intends to graduate your child, thereby terminating all services. A student who is not graduating may still walk in the graduation ceremony and participate in other end-of-senior year activities if they wish to do so.
- 5. If your child has turned 18 since the IEP went into effect, be aware that education decisions have now transferred to your child. This should be noted in the IEP. If your child is not capable of making their own education decisions, there are steps you can take to ensure that you continue to make those decisions, like having your child authorize you to make them, or, if your child does not have the capacity to understand such authorization, you can seek guardianship of your child (whereby the court will grant you authority to make decisions for your child). If you believe you will require guardianship of your adult child, be aware that it may take several months for a guardianship to be heard by a judge.
- 6. You should also review the most recent evaluations. Be sure all of your child’s needs as noted in the evaluations are being addressed in the IEP. Remember, your child should be evaluated every three years. If your child is due within the next 6 months, ask that evaluations begin now. Given the length of time these evaluations take, it would be best to have them completed prior to the annual review meeting.
Estate planning is something that often remains at the bottom of the list of things to do. However, it is important to protect your family, especially your children with special needs, by doing a quick review and update. We recommend start by pulling out your old documents to review them. Things to look for include:
- 1. When did you last update or review your documents? If it has been more than 5 years, or if your family has experienced significant changes since the documents were signed (i.e., birth of more children, change in your marital status), we recommend sitting with your attorney to review and advise if any changes are needed.
- 2. Have you indicated your selection of guardians for minors as well as adult disabled children?
- 3. If you have disabled children, have you directed their inheritance into a Special Needs Trust in order to protect their eligibility for means-tested government benefits?
- 4. Do your estate planning documents include a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Healthcare Directive and a Funeral Disposition Representative Document?
- 5. Do the beneficiary designations of your retirement plans and other accounts support your estate plan? For example, if a beneficiary of your Last Will and Testament will have his or her share held in trust, you should confirm that nothing is going directly to that beneficiary through a pay on death designation.
Once children reach the age of 18, they are legal adults and their parents no longer have authority to make decisions for them. This means different things for different young adults.
- 1. If you have a child who is 18 and has the capacity to understand a Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, that child should sign those documents just like every other adult.
- 2. If you have a child with special needs who is age 17 or older, you should consider guardianship or another protective arrangement.
- 3. If your child with special needs is age 18 or older, you should apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid on that child’s behalf.
If any of the above are things you’ve been meaning to do, but just haven’t gotten to, please know that you are in good company! These items made it to the list because many of our clients have asked us for help with them. We know you will appreciate the peace of mind you will give yourself when you can cross any of these off of your mental or actual “to do” list.Most importantly in 2024, take time for yourself. You deserve it!
If you have questions about preparing for your annual IEP review, your estate plan, or what steps you need to take to help your adult children, please contact Manes & Weinberg, LLC, to discuss your family’s needs and options.