Building a Life

A transition guide for Kansans

Things to Consider

  • There are different levels of guardianship, so consider the options when setting one up for your young adult
  • Make sure you select an option that allows your young adult the ability to be as independent as possible
  • Consider exploring special needs or pooled trusts as a way to help your young adult manage their income and expenses
  • An Individual Development Account helps employed adults save without affecting benefits

What is Guardianship?

Guardianship may be suggested for young adults who need assistance with daily living, such as money management, taking medications, personal hygiene or home maintenance. With transition, the goal is to support independence and guardianship in many cases takes away that opportunity. It is crucial to understand your guardianship options, so you can make an informed decision as to the best way to provide your young adult with the support and protection he or she needs.

In Kansas, guardianship or conservatorship is a way to help and protect a person who cannot make informed decisions on their own or without accommodations or supports. A guardian is someone who makes personal and medical decisions for someone else. A conservator acts on the behalf of the individual for estate management. According to the Kansas Guardianship Program (KGP), these options should only be used as a method of last resort and only explored after all lesser restrictive alternatives have been deemed inappropriate.

Options & Alternatives

In Kansas, alternatives to guardianship should be explored first. Options or alternatives to guardianship may range from informal to formal assistance. Informal options include support from friends, family or volunteers. Formal assistance can be found through many social service agencies, case management or home and community base services. Other options include durable powers of attorney (for both financial and health care decisions), voluntary conservatorships or financial assistance through Social Security representative payeeships.

The goal of a guardianship should be to create minimal restrictions for the young adult and support independence and self-sufficiency. Therefore, even though guardianship may seem like the only possible option, the goal should be to support the young adult and build the capacity and ability to make decisions.

Financial Planning

Although there are options for government benefits that can provide financial assistance or support, it’s important to think about other ways to support your young adult’s financial well-being. Financial planning can be overwhelming at best, particularly when you begin to think about the fact that too many assets can cause one to not be eligible for government benefits. There are a few options that you may want to look into: a special needs trust, pooled trusts or individual development accounts.

Special Needs Trusts: A special needs trust (or a supplemental care trust) is a great way to save for your young adult’s future without jeopardizing their ability to receive government benefits such as Medicaid or Social Security. This type of trust can provide for their extra and supplemental needs such as transportation, home health aides, education, rehabilitation, equipment and medical/dental care not provided by government benefits.

You will need to start by selecting a trustee, someone you completely trust and can properly manage the money. This can either be an individual or a financial institution. An attorney can work with you and the trustee to set up any parameters or limitations on how the funds are managed or distributed. Some options for funding a special needs trust can include: life insurance and/or Social Security survivor benefits; savings and investments; retirement funds or pension benefits; gifts or inheritances from friends and family; property; military benefits and others.

Pooled Trusts: A pooled trust, also known as a (d)(4)(C), is a trust where the resources of multiple beneficiaries are pooled together and managed by a non-profit association. The assets are pooled for investment and management purposes only; individuals have their own accounts to use for eligible expenses. This type of trust can sometimes allow for a larger earning potential with regard to investments. Again, this type of trust will protect government benefits if set up properly.

Individual Development Account (IDA): An IDA is a type of savings account available only for employed individuals with disabilities. They allow account holders to save on their own without jeopardizing benefits. IDA programs may be available through financial institutions, community- and faith-based organizations and some state and local governments. Each program may be slightly different but almost all require the individual to be employed. It is important that the IDA be funded by the Assets for Independence (AFI) Act or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). If not, the assets saved may end up affecting government benefits.

Regardless of the type of trust or financial support account, it’s important to consult with an attorney knowledgeable about disability benefits and assistance for setting up financial plans for families of young adults with disabilities or special health care needs to ensure all requirements are met and that benefits will not be affected.