As a parent of a child with mental illness, you know it is not an easy road.  There is no question that your child has faced more challenges than most and, as his or her life has continued, you have found these challenges become more complicated as your child becomes an adult. From navigating public benefits to ensuring your child has the health care needed on a daily basis to understanding the best way to communicate with your child, you know that this can be a full time job at times.
When your adult child has a mental illness, each day can pose new challenges. There are many legal considerations you need to make if you are planning for someone who has a mental illness. While you may feel too overwhelmed at times to plan forward, when you have a loved one with a mental illness you simply cannot wait to complete your Florida estate planning. By taking proactive steps now, you can help ensure your adult child has a secure future, even if there comes a time when you are no longer here.
Let us share with you a few key ways that you can protect your adult child through your Florida estate plan. First, when someone with a mental illness reaches the age of majority, there are many changes that can take place surrounding authority. For example, did you know that even if the person with the mental illness is barely able to care for himself or herself, a parent no longer has the legal rights to make financial or health care decisions once the child is deemed an adult?  Without proper planning, even someone with a significant developmental, cognitive or mental health disability is legally required to make their own decisions at the age of majority. 
Knowing this reality, what should you do as a parent of an adult child with mental illness? We encourage our clients to work with an attorney with a distinct expertise in this area. He can be specifically helpful for guidance and decision-making. Your attorney will first talk to you about least restrictive alternatives. These are processes that do not require the involvement of the Florida court system and, as a result, can be less costly, time consuming, and less public. Your Florida estate planning attorney can talk to you about the lifetime planning documents, such as a durable power of attorney and health care directive. He can also work with you to develop a special needs trust.
A special needs trust can be set up for people with disabilities to ensure that money will be available for a person with mental disabilities throughout his or her lifetime. It can be used for a special needs beneficiary, while not interrupting his or her right to receive public benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.  There are two main types of special needs trusts. A Third-Party Special Needs Trust holds property provided by someone other than the disabled person.  For example, a parent can place money into the trust and then determine who the money is given to when the disabled adult child passes away. The second type is called a Self-Settled Special Needs Trust and is designed to hold property belonging to the disabled person. In this type of Florida estate plan, there is almost always a payback provision for the public funds received by the disabled person in life.
For more information about mental illness and important estate planning tools you can put in place, please reach out to our office to schedule an appointment. We do telephone, computer, and face-to-face appointments. Our face-to-face appointments are held outside in the open air (frequently selected by clients for document signing) and inside our office conference room. We follow all CDC guidelines. Our office procedures adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and are designed and enhanced by medical review and air quality engineering.