When your child with special needs crosses into the age of majority – that is, becomes a legally recognized adult – it’s a major life transition. Some benefits and support systems he or she now receives may end, but new opportunities for maintaining or improving your adult child’s lifestyle may become available.

Consider a lifetime of needs

It’s impossible to know exactly what your child will encounter in his or her lifetime, but you can certainly make educated guesses and dream. As you create a vision for your child’s future, it’s best to plan ahead to ensure your child’s lifestyle will be the best it can be. Here are questions to ask yourself--ideally well before your child becomes a legal adult--but the process can be helpful at any age.

  1. Can your child make his or her own decisions – personal, financial, and medical?
  2. How will your child’s medical prognosis change over time, and how will those changes affect his or her lifestyle, financial situation, and ability to make decisions?
  3. Is your child capable of and interested in continuing his or her education after high school?
  4. Does your child receive government benefits or might there be a need to receive them in the future?
  5. Do you imagine your child employed? What dreams or goals might he or she have? Is there a need to supplement your child’s income?
  6. How do you envision your child’s living arrangements? Is independent living an option?
  7. What social and recreational activities interest your child now? What might those interests be in the future?
  8. What are your hopes for your child’s lifestyle and care when you are no longer able to provide assistance?

Financial

As you consider the questions above, you may be wondering what all of it will cost. If your child is high functioning, he or she may not need to rely heavily on your financial support. However, in some cases, it may fall to you to ensure lifelong expenses are covered.Having a discussion with a financial advisor is a great place to start to learn more about:

  • Social Security benefits your child may be eligible to receive
  • How earning an income, accepting an inheritance or being a beneficiary to a retirement or life insurance benefit can affect your child’s eligibility for government benefits
  • Policies and accounts, including employee benefits, which require a named beneficiary
  • Family members or friends who may name your child in a will or as a beneficiary

Taking time to create a plan now can help you avoid stress and hardship throughout your lifetime – and your child’s.

Guardianships

Depending on your child’s ability to make his or her own decisions, you may want to think about establishing a guardianship. This agreement allows the guardian to have decision-making authority and access to information (such as medical or financial records) for your child, once he or she has reached the legal age of adulthood, generally age 18. There are alternatives to guardianships, such as a power of attorney or advanced medical directives.

Medical

Evaluate your child’s current health and consider the long-term medical prognosis. When your child is a legally recognized adult, you’ll no longer have rights to his or her medical information, unless your child gives the medical provider or facility permission to share it (or you have already established a guardianship and are his or her guardian). Before it becomes an issue, consider completing medical directives, such as a living will, a health care proxy or a durable medical power of attorney (or, as previously mentioned, a guardianship).

Educational

Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) includes services to help him or her transition into adulthood, such as higher education and employment. Remember that educational opportunities for your child after high school are varied. If he or she is interested in college, many schools and community supports offer programs and services for students with special needs. Online studies may also be available, as well as smaller, specialized schools. If your child is interested in a trade, it’s a good idea to look into vocational or technical schools.

Employment

Look into community-based programs and job placement organizations to find companies that offer support to workers with special needs. Investigate employers who offer on-the-job training and programs, such as job coaching, specifically developed to help workers with special needs be more successful in the workplace. Before beginning a job search, review the Americans with Disabilities Act (opens new window) to fully understand your child’s employment rights.

Residential

There are many residential options to choose from depending on your child’s needs, self-sufficiency and budget. For example, your child may:

  • Continue to live with you 
  • Rent an apartment
  • Move into an assisted living facility
  • Share housing with other people
  • Purchase his or her own home. You might need to make home modifications or add a private apartment to your home.

As you develop your financial plan, remember to consider additional living expenses, such as:

  • Parking or public transportation costs
  • Homeowner association fees
  • Home repairs
  • Insurance and taxes

Utility bills, food and laundry costs

Social Life

After finishing school, socializing opportunities drop significantly for people who don’t make a conscious effort to participate in social activities outside their home. A lifestyle that includes social activities benefits physical and mental health and cultivates a network of friends, but it does take planning and resources. Think about how your loved one will travel to and from activities and consider expenses for travel, equipment, membership or participation fees, food and beverages, and other related costs.

Imagine a lifetime of needs met

Although legally considered an adult, your child will always be your child. And like most parents, there are no limits to what you will or will not do to protect his or her future. However, you don’t have to do it alone. By meeting with a financial advisor, you’ll be able to rest a bit easier knowing you’ve taken the steps today to secure a brighter tomorrow.  

Neither Voya nor its affiliated companies or representatives provide tax or legal advice. Please consult a tax adviser or attorney before making a tax – related investment/insurance decision.Products and services offered through the Voya family of companies.