Adam Doll

Hopkins & Huebner

Adel Office

Protecting Children with Intellectual Disabilities

My older brother, Matthew Doll, was born with Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that results in physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and wide ranges of intellectual disabilities. The average IQ of a young adult with Down syndrome is around 50, which equates to about an 8 or 9 year-old child.

Matt, a huge John Cena fan, has been a blessing for sure, but having a child with Down syndrome presents many challenges to parents.

One of the main concerns that parents of intellectually challenged children need to consider is what happens when that child turns 18 years old. Prior to that occurrence, parents have "natural" authority as a parent. However, shortly before the 18th birthday of someone with an intellectual disability (whose decision making capacity is so impaired that the person is unable to provide for necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care, without which physical illness or injury may occur), a legal guardianship should be created. My brother Matt certainly falls into this category, as he needs to have a guardianship in place so that a parent or other loved one can continue to have the legal authority to take care of him.

A guardian simply means a person appointed by court to make decisions for the protected person or "ward." The guardian is responsible for providing care for the ward, managing the ward's personal property and effects, assisting the ward in developing self-reliance and receiving personal care, counseling, treatment or services as needed, and ensuring that the ward receives necessary emergency medical services. Without a guardianship in place, you may be restricted from assisting and properly protecting your loved one due to the lack of legal authority.

Additionally, parents should also think about their own estate plans and how they wish to provide for any loved ones with intellectual disabilities after the parents' death. One such item of concern is how the parents' assets are distributed upon death. People with intellectual disabilities often qualify for certain governmental financial aid, and poor estate planning by the parents (or lack of estate planning) can potentially disqualify a person with intellectual disabilities from receiving that aid until any gifts they receive have been spent down. There are certain strategies that can be utilized which allow parents to provide for their children with intellectual disabilities without disqualifying them from government aid they would otherwise receive. It is recommended that you consult with an attorney knowledgable in estate planning to discuss your options.