Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns that will be presented in this newsletter by Sam W. Boone, Jr., a local attorney whose primary practice areas include elder law, estate planning, probate and trust administration. It is hoped that the information will be valuable for caregivers and family members dealing with issues related to elder law.

When people think about caregivers there is often the assumption that the people for whom they are caring are elderly. But that’s not always the case as many of you know. Many of you right now are caring for people who may or may not be older but, for one reason or another, have a disability that requires special care.

This unique population is recognized in October as part of a nationwide observance of National Special Needs Law Month. Sponsored by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), National Special Needs Law Month recognizes there is a growing need for attorneys who specialize in special-needs law as families and caregivers become more aware of the legal rights of their loved ones.

The goal of National Special Needs Law Month is to publicize the legal issues related to special needs so caregivers and family members will know their rights and responsibilities.

The Special Needs population is growing. About one in every five people in the United States has a disability. Some may be born with a disability, and others may get sick or have an accident that results in a disability. Others develop disabilities as they age. So the need for specialized advice in this area of law is growing.

Attorneys who make special-needs law a major part of their practice, can assist families supplementing and enhancing, but not supplanting, scarce government assistance for the disabled. Special Needs attorneys also help those with special needs by providing them with the legal tools for financial management as well as understanding Medicare and Medicaid, special needs trusts and a student’s right to an independent educational plan, housing options and other issues.

Additionally, we can help create health-care directives, living wills and powers of attorney, work with you to appoint a health-care agent/proxy and an alternate, as well as the designation of a guardian.

Knowledge of the unique nature of special-needs law allows us to focus on the very specific needs of our clients. We help with the issues that affect a particular segment of the population rather than a particular area of law.

When clients visit me, they are often then facing problems that go far beyond the need for a will or a power of attorney. Special Needs attorneys are familiar with the multi-faceted aspect of this complex area of the law, as well as the network of services and providers who can assist clients effectively.

So whether you are caring for someone born with a disability or who suffers from a disability as a result of an accident, illness or age, let National Special Needs Law Month in October trigger action from you to deal with these complex legal issues.

Sam W. Boone, Jr. is a Gainesville-based attorney practicing elder law and estate planning. He is president of the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys and the Co-chair of the Florida Joint Public Policy Task Force for the Elderly and Disabled. To learn more about elder-law issues, go online to www. http://boonelaw.com, or call (352)-374-8308.

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