Tag Archives: disabled adults

ABLE Accounts Could Help Your Disabled Ward

ABLE, Wheaton family law attorneysIn early May 2017, Illinois announced the opening of the statewide ABLE Act Program, billed as a life-changer for those with disabilities. The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, known as the ABLE Act, was passed by the federal government in 2014, and states were given the opportunity to develop an appropriate program to administer the infrastructure. Illinois’s took some time to complete, but at this point, the program is open and able to receive applications. Naturally, one might wonder if applying is worth the effort. The answer is going to depend on your individual situation, especially if you or another person has guardianship over your disabled loved one.

The Program

Normally, in order to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must show that you have very few assets of your own, and your total net worth must remain under $2,000. However, as costs of living have risen and insurance companies have cut back on the coverage they will provide, such a limit is not tenable for many, especially families, who may need that supplemental income. For example, it is not uncommon for a disabled person to marry, and then promptly lose their benefits. This happens because his or her spouse’s income is counted among their own assets, as that person’s income is counted among his or her spouse’s assets. Such outcomes are patently inequitable.

The ABLE Act seeks to give families in these positions a bit of help. Disabled adults or parents of disabled children may establish ABLE accounts for themselves and pay into them without having to worry about it affecting their eligibility for SSI or other means-tested government benefits. Because many of the costs of disability care are not covered by insurance, an ABLE account may, at least in theory, be used to help pay for such aids as a certain type of wheelchair, accessible transportation, or similar things intended to improve the disabled person’s quality of life.

People Under Guardianship

While for many, ABLE accounts appear to be a significant help for the disabled in saving money and dignity, there are some factors to be aware of if you are under guardianship or are the guardian of a disabled adult. The Arc of Illinois explains that if someone is under guardianship, but he or she wishes to establish an ABLE account, it generally requires court approval to do so. It can also require a surety bond, as well as approval of all expenditures from the account, depending on the county and the nature of the guardianship. In most cases, a guardian of the person must seek approval to manage the account on the disabled person’s behalf while a guardian of the estate does not require such approval.

The rationale behind this is that generally, the disabled person is in control of the account, with no trustees or governing entity behind them. However, if someone has a guardian of the estate, by definition, the disabled person is not in control of the account. This can cause difficulties in the future, especially if the person has intellectual disabilities and may not have sufficient capacity to make decisions regarding his or her finances.

Need Help Understanding ABLE Accounts?

Overall, ABLE accounts are seen as a positive step for disabled people in terms of being able to support themselves, but the equation becomes more complex if there is a guardianship involved. Our passionate DuPage County family law attorneys can help advise you on how to ensure that your ward will be provided for and given the as many opportunities as possible to be independent. Contact our offices today to set up an initial consultation.





The Concept of Guardianship in Illinois

guardianship, DuPage County family law attorneyIn Illinois, a guardianship is created when when the court grants legal decision-making authority to an individual on behalf of another person who is incapable of or cannot reasonably make such decisions themselves. Persons subject to guardianships include minors, since they lack the legal authority to make such decisions, adults with severe mental or physical disabilities or impairment, elderly persons suffering from dementia or mental decline, and adults suffering from severe mental health conditions, among many others.

How Does Guardianship Differ from Parenting Rights and Responsibilities?

A guardianship can include the right to act as a parent and take on parental responsibilities for minor children, but it does not apply to the child’s natural parents, who may seek parenting time without establishing guardianship.

Typically, persons who seek guardianship of minor children include stepparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, adult siblings, extended family or close friends of the family when a child’s parents have died, or are unable or unfit to continue serving as caregiver.

How Does the Court Decide Guardianship Cases?

Guardianship motions are decided on a case-by-case basis, and the court considers many relevant factors, including:

  • The fitness and motivations of the persons seeking guardianship;
  • The wishes of the person subject to potential guardianship;
  • Clear and convincing evidence as to the mental capacity of the potential ward;
  • The type and severity of the potential ward’s disabilities;
  • Whether the potential ward’s condition may continue to decline or fail to improve;
  • Testimony from physicians, psychologists, therapists, teachers, and other professionals familiar with the case; and
  • The previously expressed wishes of the child or children’s parents who have passed away.

What May Make Guardianship Necessary or Desirable?

Several common situations can prompt the need for establishing an official guardianship. In many instances, caregivers are already serving the role of guardian, without having established the legal relationship. Some situations that may make guardianship necessary or convenient include:

  • Enrolling a minor in school or an adult in an adult daycare program;
  • Making important medical decisions;
  • Having the legal authority to receive private information protected by law, such as medical or educational records;
  • Committing a loved one to psychiatric treatment, rehab program, residential facility or nursing home without their consent;
  • Receiving public assistance or benefits on behalf of the potential ward;
  • Obtaining parenting rights when a parent is unfit or has abandoned the child; and
  • Carrying out the wishes of parents who have named preferred guardians for their children in a will.

Consult an Experienced Guardianship Attorney in Illinois

Whatever your reasons for seeking to serve as a guardian of your loved one, your experienced DuPage County family law attorney can help protect your best interests, and those of your potential ward. Contact us for professional help today.